MORNING RUSH: news, sport, weather, traffic & online buzz

8.38am That's it from us this morning. Tune in tomorrow for the TGIF edition of the Rush. Have a wonderful Thursday :)

8.36am STRANGE BUT TRUE: I've found something truly wonderful. An alarm clock that doubles as a bedside barista. There.are.no.words.

8.34am Are you taking part in the City to Surf this Sunday? If so, good for you. I did it last year but am saving my legs this time. I feel I'm more of a bi-annual City to Surf participant.

8.32am The Phoenix Theatre in Coniston is looking for a male over 18 to play Germany in its production of Oh What a Lovely War. Visit their website if you're keen.

8.30am POLITICS: George Brandis' infamous defence of the rights of bigots has been cited by his own colleagues as the cause of the government's capitulation on changing race-hate laws. Liberals said the AG's comments in April had torpedoed what was a move to uphold free speech.

8.29am CELEB GOSS ALERT: Kim Kardashian and Kanye West have purchased a new $20 million home near Kim's mum Kris Jenner.

8.28am Barack Obama has sung Iggy Azalea's hit Fancy. Mad. See below.

8.26am Apparently there are two horses on the loose on Memorial Drive, between Bellambi Lane & Corrimal heading south. Have you spotted these pesky equine? We want your PICS!

8.24am LOCAL NEWS: Wollongong Lord Mayor Gordon Bradbery has likened ongoing construction work in Crown Street Mall and Keira Street to "childbirth".

*Dominic Geiger has the full story here.

8.22am Did you know that Kate Moss has a sister? And she's as equally beautiful as her model sister. Meet Lottie...

8.18am STRANGE BUT TRUE: A Philippine city is offering bounties for dead rats in an effort to prevent a repeat of a deadly epidemic spread by rodent urine. Olongapo city residents are being paid 10 pesos for each adult rat captured and killed, and five pesos for juveniles, to battle the bacterial disease leptospirosis. EWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWW.

8.16am I'm going to make your morning with this video - check out this baby seal surfing! ARRRR. Squeee at the cuteness.

8.15am How gorgeous are these blooms? Posted by the lovely ladies at Hello Petal flowers in Fairy Meadow.

8.14am Ten of the region's best bands will battle it out for almost $20,000 in prizes on Saturday in the final of the Original LP Band Comp at Woonona Bulli RSL. Click here for the full story.

8.13am Mark August 25 on your calenders - it’s Emmy Award time!

8.10am NATIONAL: Five navy personnel aboard the infamous “burned hands” asylum boat have denied that any asylum seekers were assaulted, harmed “in any manner” or mistreated during the January tow-back operation.

8.08am Apparently Ms Rebecca Gibney has been hanging around Kiama - she's filming her new Channel Seven drama there. It is a beautiful spot!

8.04am Love Pad Thai but never seem to be able to recreate that restaurant quality meal? Here's some handy hints from chef Karen Martini.

8.02am PARENTING: Research out this week shows the key to well-behaved children and getting your kids to do well at school is to eat dinner together as a family.

8.01am The children’s chorus from the Wollongong Con will be performing with Opera Australia in Mozart’s The Magic Flute at the IPAC this weekend.

7.58am Have you booked your tickets to see High School Musical yet? It’s on at WHSPA from September 29 to October 5. Grab your tix here.

7.56am Good morning if you're just tuning in! We're in for a sunny day with a top of 17 degrees. All is sweet on the roads. There are some delays on the Southern Highlands rail line - allow extra travel time.

7.54am LOCAL NEWS: South Coast Labour Council Secretary Arthur Rorris says a candlelight vigil being held in Wollongong tonight will send a message of peace and hope to the people of Gaza.

7.52am Sydney: Accused murderer Lian Bin "Robert" Xie's motivation to kill five members of the Lin family stemmed in part from his sexual interest in a young female relative, a NSW Supreme Court jury has heard.

7.50am Confirming she is probably the nicest author out, J K Rowling has sent a letter as Dumbledore to a Texas teenager who lost her family in a tragic shooting. What a legend.

7.48am Australia's unemployment rate is expected to remain unchanged when official jobs figures are released today.

7.46am Fellow slobs - good news, apparently gym wear is now COOL. I often wear my gym gear to coffee dates, appointments etc, especially if I'm on holidays & sans make-up. So glad to know I'm on-trend!

7.44am BREAKING: A former part-time librarian at a Sydney design school has been charged after she allegedly accessed student records of PM Tony Abbott's daughter Frances.

7.42am SPORT: Andy Murray has breezed past Aussie youngster Nick Krygios in straight sets at the Toronto Masters. Damn!

7.40am Saxophonist Nick Russoniello is set to play at the Wollongong Con on August 22. We've got all the details here.

7.38am WORLD NEWS: The World Health Organisation has begun a two-day emergency meeting on West Africa's Ebola epidemic, with the UN agency deciding whether to declare it an international crisis. Click here for more.

7.36am Myer is set to launch its Spring/Summer fashion collections with Kris Smith and Jennifer Hawkins at its George St store in Sydney today.

7.34am A little Thursday funny for you as you head into the weekend...

7.32am Looking for a fun night out? The Social is hosting Fiesta Thursdays, serving up a range of sangria specials to go with tasty $5 tapas plates. You can also head there for an after-work drink every Tuesday to Friday - enjoy $5 house beer & wine from 5pm to 7pm.

7.30am CELEB GOSS ALERT: Blake Lively has told US magazine she wished she could star in "every movie" with hubby Ryan Reynolds. Same-o!

7.29am NATIONAL: Australian couples whose embryos are being carried by surrogate mothers in Thailand are calling on the federal government to seek an amnesty for existing surrogacy arrangements, after Thai authorities cracked down on the industry in the wake of the baby Gammy case.

7.28am Lucille Ball would have turned 103 today. Wow. Happy birthday to other August 7 babies. Here's a little I Love Lucy just for you.

7.26am BREAKING: Police have arrested six teenagers over anti-Semitic threats on a Bondi Junction school bus.

7.25am LOCAL NEWS: Students in the health and community services fields are "the smartest people in the university", according to Warrigal Care chief executive Mark Sewell.

*Reporter Glen Humphries has the full story here.

7.24am Yell when you see this one - a DEFINITE challenge for men.

7.22am TECH TALK: Counting down the days until the iPhone 6 is released? You're not alone - here's what to expect from the new, shiny phone. Think bigger screen, better battery & improvements to the camera.

7.20am LOCAL SPORT - NRL: One of the best defensive centres in the modern game, former Dragons star Matt Cooper, is the behind-the-scenes mentor to ensure Josh Dugan is no longer a target in the NRL.

7.18am A little food trivia for you this morning - did you know the largest pizza ever baked weighed an incredible 12.19 tonnes!? That's a LOT of pizza.

7.16am Ever heard of a monkey selfie? Yep, it's just what you thought - a monkey who snapped his own pic. Well, it's created QUITE the drama. Wikimedia has declined a photog's request to remove the image he says is being used online without permission, claiming the copyright belongs to ... the monkey.

7.14am MUSIC NEWS: Guy Sebastian has just announced his first ever national arena tour. He'll play at the WIN Entertainment Centre on February 12. Tickets on sale via Ticketmaster.

7.12am WORLD NEWS: A Rome university professor is facing a disciplinary hearing after inviting the captain of the shipwrecked Costa Concordia cruise liner to lecture students on emergency procedures. NB Epic, epic fail.

7.10am SPORT: A man arrested in connection with the suspected theft of former Formula One champion Michael Schumacher’s medical records has been found hanged in his cell.

7.08am Sydney: Early closing venues could "buy" the right to trade late 12 times a year and bottle shops repeatedly caught selling alcohol to children could have their licence cancelled under a planned liquor law overhaul.

7.06am STRANGE BUT TRUE: Barnes & Noble bookstores in the US last week held a "Frozen Friday" where employees dressed up like characters from the Disney film Frozen for the kids. Some of the costumes are, um, a little special. And creepy. Check them out below.

7.04am The Brewery is running Tex Mex nights every Thursday. Think nachos, tequila and Corona buckets to share. Yum! Head over there tonight.

7.02am I love the Lion King musical. Check out the Broadway cast taking over a NYC subway and singing "Circle of Life." Very cool. Kind of like a singing flash mob!

7am LOCAL NEWS: A Fairy Meadow pilot charged in connection with a police raid on a plane at Albion Park Airport last month has fronted court.

*Reporter Michelle Webster has the full report here.

6.58am CELEB GOSS ALERT: Kanye, Kanye, Kanye, when will you learn?! He has admitted to being a "smart celebrity" and he's "not Britney Spears" in dealing with the paparazzi. Ouch.

6.56am Good morning if you're just tuning in! We're in for a sunny day with a top of 17 degrees. All is sweet on the roads & rail.

6.54am Bondi Junction: A gang of men have stormed a school bus of Jewish students aged between five & 12, threatening to slit their throats. Terrifying.

6.52am WORLD NEWS: Russia will ban all food imports from the US and all fruit & veg from Europe, it was reported yesterday, in a sweeping response to Western sanctions imposed over its support for rebels in Ukraine.

6.50am STRANGE BUT (MAYBE?) TRUE: A triangular UFO was reportedly videotaped over Kassel in Germany by a man who was taping his son playing in the park. Is it real, is it not? Cue The X-Files theme song...

6.48am POLITICS: It’s been called "excruciating" and "the most embarrassing interview you'll ever likely to see". AG George Brandis struggled to explain live on Sky News yesterday afternoon the details of his government's controversial "data retention" policy. Check out the cringe-worthy video here.

6.46am TV NEWS: OMG, did you watch The Bachelor last night? You know I'm obsessed! Those girls be crazy - the claws are REALLY coming out!

6.44am MH17: A national day of mourning will be held today for the victims of flight MH17. All cathedral and church bells are set to ring after a national memorial service.

6.42am LOCAL NEWS: A Wollongong councillor pushing to have Sydney's new airport named after Illawarra flight pioneer Lawrence Hargrave will ask PM Tony Abbott to support a Facebook naming competition for the Badgerys Creek site.

*Council reporter Kate McIlwain has the full story here.

6.40am People, I bring you squirrel knight, courtesy of the must follow Twitter account, Dressed Up Animals. 'Nuff said.

6.38am TV NEWS: British comedian Ricky Gervais will revisit David Brent, his famous character from The Office, for a new mockumentary.

6.37am And in some breaking news, Oscar Pistorius is due back in court today as his murder trial nears a verdict.

6.36am WORLD NEWS: An Australian three-year-old holidaying with her family in New York has narrowly escaped death after a traffic light pole fell and crushed her stroller when two double-decker tour buses collided in Times Square.

6.34am I love this little gem from BuzzFeed - 22 signs you're an overprotective pet parent. Warning bells should be ringing if you check the ingredients in your pet's food & take them on holidays with you.

6.32am LOCAL SPORT: Title-winning A-League defender Matt Smith believes the South Coast Wolves have a golden opportunity to ride the wave of All Stars support in Wollongong this week to mount a fairytale FFA Cup run.

6.30am TV NEWS: Did you watch the Offspring season 5 finale last night? I didn't but here's a little recap if you missed it. Will there be a season 6?

6.28am STRANGE BUT TRUE: Speaking of Jay Z, check out this random baby who looks EXACTLY like the US rapper. Creepy.

6.26am MH17: The Australian and Dutch governments have abandoned the search for victims of MH17. In statements overnight, PM envoy Angus Houston and Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte conceded the insecurity of an intensifying separatist war in and around the search site made it impossible to continue.

6.24am CELEB GOSS ALERT: Nicole Kidman has claimed she "eats anything she wants" and stays thin. Lucky her! She also tries to "exercise with her family."

6.22am The saga of baby Gammy has continued - it has now been revealed that Gammy's father “robbed” two young girls of their childhood when he sexually assaulted them in the 1980s, a WA judge said when he sentenced him in 1997.

6.21am LOCAL NEWS: Children as young as three are bullying their preschool peers and many early childhood teachers have no training or policies to stop it, a University of Wollongong researcher has told a national bullying conference.

*Education reporter Ang Thompson has the full report here.

6.20am MUSIC NEWS: All is definitely not well between Beyonce & Jay Z.  Apparently the pair are staying in separate hotels while on their tour and Beyonce has continued looking for her own apartment. Ouch.

6.18am Don't forget we're crossing to Pulse 94.1FM every hour with all the latest from the Rush.

6.16am STRANGE BUT TRUE: A bull elephant in South Africa has got up close & VERY personal with a safari car. Woah!

6.14am Have you head of cauliflower rice? It's basically raw cauliflower whizzed in the food processor & then pan-fried. Apparently it's delish. Jury's still out for me on this one. Anywho, if you want to give it a go, here's a recipe.

6.12am WORLD NEWS: Batten down the hatches Hawaii, you're in for some weather - a hurricane and a tropical storm were yesterday heading west across the Pacific Ocean toward Hawaii, where officials announced school closures and warned visitors and residents to prepare.

6.10am CELEB GOSS ALERT: Katie Holmes has admitted she's unable to give daughter Suri the "gift of normalcy" she had during her childhood in Ohio. But she's trying. Hmmm.

6.08am PERTH: Have you seen this amazing story of a group of Perth commuters who rescued a man trapped between a plane & a platform? They formed a human chain & got him out. The story's now gone global.

6.06am And in national news (via the SMH):

*Rampant visa fraud and migration crime involving plane arrivals into Australia is going unchecked while the government focuses on stopping boats, according to secret government files detailing entrenched immigration department failings

*Attorney-General George Brandis has cited police use of metadata in a nationally high profile murder prosecution to illustrate why the government wants to push ahead with new data retention laws.

*Food companies are advertising products such as Kit Kats and Coco Pops to children because they are classified as healthy by their own nutritional standards.

*A Somali people-smuggling cell linked to an overseas terrorism suspect has been able to get dozens of people into Australia through a passport-swapping scam.

6.04am Here's what's making news in your Mercury today:

*The work along Keira Street has had a substantial impact on The Living Room restaurant, according to owner George Antoniou.

*A group of Wollongong residents has accused electricity provider Endeavour Energy of ‘‘wanton mutilation’’ when it comes to pruning trees lining the city’s streets.

*The sister of a man killed in a tragic car crash in Austinmer 14 years ago says she had "all but given up" hope someone would be charged over the incident.

*The "antisocial" regulars of Crown Street Mall will be hidden away inside the Wesley Church under a plan to spruce up the CBD area.

6.02am Let's kick the morning off with the latest weather & traffic, shall we?

WEATHER We're in for a sunny day with a top of 17 degrees. There's a chance of showers tonight and some light winds. Right now, it's 11 in Bellambi and 9 in Albion Park. NB Anyone else REALLY over this cold weather?!

TRAFFIC All looks good on our roads & for the run to Sydney.

TRAINS There is a good service on the South Coast line.

6am Good morning Illawarra! It's Thursday, August 7. August already - where are the months going!? Stay with your host, Emma Spillett, this morning for all the latest news etc.

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