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

8.48am ​That's it from us this morning. Enjoy your Thursday! See you tomorrow for the TGIF edition of the Rush.

8.35am LOCAL NEWS: A Wombarra beachside home has sold for $3.02 million, making it one of the highest residential sales on record for the Illawarra’s northern suburbs.

*Property reporter Louise Turk has the full story here.

8.30am SPORT: Lleyton Hewitt has suffered a heavy first-round US Open defeat to complete the worst grand slam season of his celebrated 18-year career. Powerhouse sixth seed Tomas Berdych ousted Hewitt in straight sets: 6-3 6-4 6-3. Ouch.

8.28am NATIONAL: Australia and Indonesia are ready to patch up their relationship with a code of conduct that should ensure last year's damaging spy scandal is not repeated.

8.26am Looking for some inspiration in the kitchen tonight? Try this smoke salmon fettuccine - looks yum!

8.24am MUSIC NEWS: Basement Jaxx star Felix Buxton, 44, has written a song about aliens after catching a glimpse of what he believes was a UFO, outside the band's London headquarters. Get the full (weird!) story here.

8.22am Australia's oldest wombat has turned 29! Patrick weighs 38 kilograms and is looking for love. Awww.

8.20am NATIONAL: Universities appear no closer to relieving the uncertainty surrounding the government's planned deregulation agenda for the higher education sector as a Senate majority proves elusive. The Abbott government will unveil its higher education legislation package today, but its immediate future is in doubt because it is steadfastly opposed by Labor, the Greens and by all but two of the eight crossbench senators.

8.18am In some other local news this morning, surfer Dylan Longbottom is set to swap the chilly climes of Wollongong for balmy Tahiti, taking to the famed Teahupoo break to film the remake of cult surf movie Point Break. Awesome!

8.16am Teeheehee, take a look at this gallery of animals dancing - Saturday Night Fever + otters = hilarious.

8.14am LOCAL NEWS: Firefighters were called to a kitchen fire in Wollongong on Tuesday night.

*Reporter Kate Walsh has the full story here.

8.12am CELEB GOSS ALERT: Lady Gaga has posted a pic her & crooner Tony Bennett, saying: "I never thought I would have a friend like this. We talk about everything, We sing, we laugh, we cry".

8.10am Alec Baldwin had a bit of a flukey moment at the US Open - he caught a tennis ball on the fly. Check it out below.

8.06am WORLD NEWS: There were two victims of the shooting at the Bullets and Burgers gun range in Arizona on Tuesday. One was the 39-year-old instructor Charles Vacca who lost his life. The other was the 9-year-old girl from New Jersey who accidentally shot him with a sub-machinegun as her parents watched on with a video camera

8.04am STRANGE BUT TRUE: A champagne glass designed by British artist Jane McAdam Freud has been modelled on Kate Moss's left breast. Why? Who knows. Click here for more.

8.02am The makers of game Candy Crush Saga pulled in $1.4bn profit last year. Scary.

8am Have you booked your tickets to see High School Musical yet? It’s on at Wollongong High School of the Performing Arts from September 29 to October 5. Grab your tix here.

7.58am Good morning Illawarra! Welcome if you're just tuning in. We're in for another partly cloudy day with scattered showers & a top of 17. Traffic is still heavy through Rockdale, allow extra time. The 7:18am Martin Place to Kiama train has been cancelled between Hurstville and Kiama.

7.56am STRANGE BUT TRUE: Stop the presses - the makers of Hello Kitty have revealed she is NOT in fact a cat, but a human girl. WHA? Looks like a cat to me!

7.54am Oh, this little boy - he loves to dress up & emulate some of Hollywood's favourite stars. Who is he here? (hint, Ryan Gosling, hint).

7.52am SPORT: The NRL has floated the prospect of introducing a third on-field referee in 2016 as part of a sweeping series of mooted changes hailed as the biggest to the game since the introduction of the video referee.

7.50am Australian culture is marinated in alcohol. On average, Aussies over the age of 15 drink about 12.2 litres of pure alcohol each a year. That is the equivalent to about 480 beers, 135 bottles of wine or 40 bottles of vodka each. GOOD LORD!

7.48am LOCAL SPORT: Albion Park and University have long dominated Illawarra's first grade hockey, but the minor semi-final battle between Wests and Robertson carries its own share of history.

7.46am Hehe check out the ice bucket challenge - carried out by Lego characters! Even the little brick men are getting in on the action...

7.44am SYDNEY: An elderly Sydney man has been banned from driving for the next 78 years and is facing nine months home detention after driving while disqualified for the 21st time. "Don't drive, will you," Magistrate Chris O'Brien quipped after disqualifying 76-year-old Nathaniel Barker from driving until 2092 yesterday.

7.42am Want to learn how to cook Iraqi food? Head along to Wild Rumpus' mezze cooking class on September 7. Click below for more information.

7.40am LOCAL NEWS: If you can't trust an assistant school principal, who can you trust? That was the question an Illawarra mother found herself asking a Sydney court to consider when determining an appropriate punishment for Mark Forbes, the man responsible for molesting her two young daughters.

*Court reporter Shannon Tonkin has the full story here.

7.38am MUSIC NEWS: People, sit down & take a deep breath. It's JUST a rumour but ... if two Australian sources are to be believed, Beyonce, and her rap mogul hubby Jay-Z are bringing their On The Run co-headlining stadium tour to Australia.

7.37am Legendary graffiti artist Peque will be painting a mural at Amigos on September 24 & 25. Very cool.

7.35am TRAFFIC ALERT - Rockdale: Motorists travelling north on the Princes Highway are experiencing delays approaching Sydenham, following an earlier accident. Traffic is heavy from Rockdale - motorists are advised to allow extra travel time.

7.34am And in other local theatre news, the last three performance of Workshop's Death of A Salesman are on from tonight. Click below for deets.

7.32am Roo Theatre’s production of The Mikado opens this weekend. The theatre is looking for volunteers to help with front-of-house. Email if you can assist.

7.30am NATIONAL: Thousands of homes across Australia are at risk of catching fire because of faulty, non-compliant electrical cables installed in the past four years. The ACCC says Infinity and Olsent cable ranges, sold widely through 18 retail groups including Masters Home Improvement, Thrifty and Mitre 10, could become brittle and spark fires from 2016 and onwards.

7.29am MUSIC NEWS: Lady Gaga joined Adam Lambert & Queen on-stage last night in Sydney. Very cool! NB my parents went the night before, damn!

7.28am TIARA ALERT: Prince Harry whisked away new girlfriend Camilla Thurlow over the weekend for a romantic cruise through Saint-Tropez. Oh to be a royal girlfriend!

7.26am Qantas Airways is tipped to make a pre-tax loss of $750 million but some think it could sink to nearly $1 billion.

7.25am LOCAL SPORT: Playing in the shadows of some of his high-profile English counterparts, Mike Cooper admits his successful NRL debut season has been motivated by fear.

7.24am NATIONAL: Overseas surrogacy arrangements are taking place in an unregulated environment that is exposing babies and the women who carry them to a higher risk of bad health outcomes, a study shows.

7.22am The Kristen Fletcher Trio are set to bring their blend of jazz & pop to Three Chimneys on Saturday night. Head in for dinner & some cool tunes.

7.20am CELEB GOSS ALERT: Modern Family actress Sofia Vergara really partied at the Emmys. So much so that she had a bit of a "nip slip" while she was being thrown around the dance floor. Oopsie!

7.19am LOCAL NEWS: The staff at Coles Fairy Meadow were recently named NSW Store Team of the Year for their customer service and outstanding contribution to the community.

*Click here for the full story.

7.18am MUSIC NEWS: Lady Gaga has stripped down to just fishnet stockings while on stage in Brisbane. Are we shocked by this? No. I'd be more shocked if she was wearing clothes!

7.16am WORLD NEWS: A US writer freed after being held captive for two years by Syrian insurgents yesterday thanked those who had worked for his release and said he was emotionally overwhelmed by his welcome home.

7.14am Looking for somewhere to eat tonight? Why not try Cha Cha Bar & Grill under the WEC? Have a look at this review - see what you think.

7.12am STRANGE BUT TRUE: A woman in the US has failed to realise she has been sharing her house with a 5000-strong wasp "megahive". Exterminators said it was their "biggest job in 45 years of operation".

7.10am NATIONAL: A three-year-old girl has died after being struck by a car reversing out of a driveway in Taree. Click here for the full story.

7.08am The Brewery is running its Tex Mex night tonight. Think nachos, tequila and Corona buckets to share. Yum!

7.06am LOCAL SPORT: Illawarra rugby league manager Chris Bannerman doesn't believe there are issues with performance-enhancing drugs in the Coal League, after ASADA officials attended last week's minor semi-final in Dapto.

7.04am Love sweets but REALLY don't like all the sugar? Then you'll love these raw carrot cake bliss balls. Bliss in name, bliss in taste.

7.02am In some other TV news this morning, the final episode of Chelsea Lately has been filmed and several celebs, including Ellen Degeneres, Jennifer Aniston & Sandra Bullock, appeared. Jen & Sandra even brought out Chelsea's ex-boyfriend 50 Cent for the occasion!

7am SYDNEY: A woman appeared agitated and concerned as she left the foyer of a Sydney unit block just 12 hours before her body was found in a Sydney creek yesterday morning.

6.59am TV NEWS: A pop-up Central Perk coffee shop is on its way to New York City to celebrate 20 years since Friends hit our TV screens. Cool!

6.58am Good morning Illawarra! Welcome if you're just tuning in. We're in for another partly cloudy day with scattered showers & a top of 17. All is swell on the roads & rail.

6.56am LOCAL NEWS: It is open season on trees in large sections of the Illawarra, as new vegetation clearing rules allow landowners to cut down anything growing near their houses.

*Reporter Ben Langford has the full story here.

6.54am MOVIE NEWS: Can you believe it's been 50 years today since Mary Poppins premiered? 50 YEARS! Jane Banks has sure grown up a LOT since then...

6.52am 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

6.51am And in some other world news this morning, a Salt Lake City mother has been accused of giving birth & then dumping her newborn baby in a garbage bin.

6.50am WORLD NEWS: Two earthquakes measuring more than magnitude 5 hit Iceland's Bardarbunga volcano overnight and another quake shook a nearby volcano, with overall seismic activity staying high, the country's Meteorological Office said yesterday.

6.48am Look at this hedgehog with his hamster friend. Awww. I want. both.

6.46am The Mercury is launching a new newsletter, Mercury Morning Rush. Sign up here for your chance to win $500. Entries close September 8.

6.44am NATIONAL: The Abbott government is pushing ahead with a religious-only school chaplaincy scheme, following a cabinet debate over whether secular welfare workers should be included in the program.

6.43am STRANGE BUT TRUE: Clothing giant Zara has been forced to apologise over a set of PJs that look like a concentration camp uniform. D'oh!

6.42am Funny man Dave Hughes is set to return to the WEC on December 4 with his hit show Pointless. Tickets go on-sale today via Ticketmaster.

6.40am MOVIE NEWS: Brad & Ang are set to star in a movie together! It will be the first time they've appeared on-screen together since Mr & Mrs Smith.

6.36am NATIONAL: A Melbourne art expert has been charged after an investigation into suspected forged Brett Whiteley paintings. It is alleged Muhammad Aman Siddique obtained a $2.5 million financial advantage for himself and others by producing a purported Whiteley painting - Lavender Bay - and then fraudulently selling it as a genuine work.

6.34am LOCAL NEWS: Tributes have flowed for Tumbleweed bassplayer, Jay Curley, who passed away on Monday. Leave your tribute on our wall.

6.32am Feeling a little tubby this morning? Don't stress, we've all been there, including this gopher. He had to be rescued by a couple in the US because he was too fat to wriggle out of his hole. Bless.

6.30am NSW: More than 5000 trees have been chopped down at schools across NSW with $13 million spent on "tree safety works", following the playground accident in February in which eight-year-old Bridget Wright was killed by a falling limb from a gum tree.

6.28am And in some other celebrity news this morning, Jennifer Aniston has made a BIG announcement. Drum roll please ... she's NOT pregnant. She's over the speculation and has just come out and confirmed it - NOT pregnant.

6.27am BREAKING CELEB NEWS: X-Factor judge Redfoo has been glassed at a pub in Sydney's eastern suburbs in the early hours of Thursday morning, according to witnesses. We've got the full story here.

6.26am What were you doing 10 years ago? We're here to help jog your memory - click for our gallery, flashing back to August 2004.

6.24am STRANGE BUT TRUE: We have found the wooliest sheep in the world! This sheep was captured after six years in the wild & my god, does it have some wool! Man, you could make 20 jumpers out of that!

6.22am SPORT: South Africa have pulled off the second-biggest run-chase in their one-day international history to sink Australia in the tri-series clash.

6.20am TV NEWS: Did you watch The Bachelor last night? There was drama on the group date, Chantal scored a dreamy single date & one of the new girls went home (not our girl Rach!)

6.19am Guilty of snapping a few selfies? This will make you think twice - a father has secretly filmed his daughter taking selfies - and the video is hilarious!

6.18am LOCAL NEWS: A man charged in relation to making threats to Wollongong Hospital on Tuesday has faced Port Kembla Local Court.

*We've got the full story here.

6.16am A little Thursday funny for you - mouse-style!

6.15am NATIONAL: A pilot involved in a light plane crash that claimed the life of an 11-year-old girl in northern NSW has been charged with manslaughter. Get the full story here.

6.14am STRANGE BUT TRUE: A US couple has thrown a Wizard of Oz-inspired wedding, complete with Yellow Brick Road. Now THAT'S dedication to a theme! I wonder if they had munchkins...

6.12am TV NEWS: After sweeping the globe, the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge has reached Springfield. Producers of The Simpsons have released a clip of everyone's favourite father, Homer J. Simpson, being doused with ice – and more. Check it out here.

6.10am WORLD NEWS: Fighting in eastern Ukraine between government forces and pro-Russian rebels raged on after the Russian and Ukrainian presidents hailed as "positive" talks Tuesday night on ending the conflict.

6.08am CELEB GOSS ALERT: Former Home & Away star Kate Ritchie has named her baby girl - and it's a normal name! Welcome to the world baby Mae.

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

*The state government has been left red-faced after the first two houses to be auctioned at Millers Point sold for significantly higher than the price guides provided to buyers.

*Tony Abbott broke with tradition and skipped an annual black tie dinner held for government senators when he attended a party fund-raiser in Melbourne on Monday night.

*Australia's Defence Chief has warned the brutal Islamic State group will sooner or later have to be defeated "on the battlefield", as the United States was reportedly preparing to ask Australia for help with air strikes in Iraq.

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

*Earlier this year, Sharon Holz took her first independent steps with a mobility frame after being in a wheelchair for 25 years.

*Illawarra politicians say Wollongong will be left scrambling for Sydney's crumbs when it comes to getting a share of the NSW government's $20 billion poles and wires fund.

*The State Emergency Service has reiterated a warning not to drive, walk or ride through flooded areas after several rescues across the region on Tuesday.

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

WEATHER We're in for another partly cloudy day with scattered showers & a top of 17. The good news is that showers will ease during the day.

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! Happy Thursday, hope you're keeping dry during this wet week. Stay with your host Emma Spillett this morning for all the latest news etc.

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