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

8.52am That's it for today's edition of Morning Rush. Come back again tomorrow for an early-morning look at the latest news and online chatter.

8.48am TV GOSS It looks like a character from Game of Thrones has been dropped from season five. In the latest casting announcement, noticeably absent in fan favourite Arianne Martell, niece of Oberyn and heiress to Dorne. People aren’t too happy about it.

8.44am Making plans for the weekend? Lionel Robinson is playing at the Blue Diamond Bar at the Kiama Sebel on Friday night from 7pm.

8.40am It’s Education Week and schools across the Illawarra are celebrating. In Kiama, students from Kiama High School, Kiama Public School, Gerringong Public School, Jamberoo Public School and Minnamurra Public School  will put on a concert at Hindmarsh Park on Thursday from 10am.

8.36am The Kiama Farmers' Market is on from 2pm this afternoon at Black Beach. This looks like the perfect lunchtime treat. 

8.32am This year’s Wollongong Relay for Life is on September 20 and 21 at Beaton Park. The theme of this year's Illawarra relay is Passport for Hope, with organisers hoping to tap into the excitement of international sporting events being held this year including the soccer World Cup. Anyone wanting more information can visit the website .au

8.24am This year Tropfest includes the inaugural TROPVINE Competition. Entrants have just six seconds for the film using the Vine app. 

8.20am On this day in 762, Baghdad was founded; in 1932 Walt Disney released Flowers and Trees, the first cartoon short to use Technicolor and the first Academy Award winning cartoon short; in 1980 Vanuatu became independent.

8.16am LOCAL NEWS Plans to establish a community committee to help manage Bass Point and Blackbutt Forest Reserves will be further considered by Shellharbour councillors despite opposition to the move from Shellharbour City Council staff.

8.12am Australians are being warned to steer clear of parts of West Africa as the deadly Ebola virus claims more victims.Nearly 700 people have died in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia since March in what has been described as the most serious recorded outbreak yet of the virus. AAP

8.08am WORLD NEWS Fifteen-year-old Abigail 'Abby' Hernandez, who went missing for nine months, made a surprise appearance in the courtroom where her alleged kidnapper, Nathaniel Kibby, was having his bail set. SMH

8.04am Today is World Hepatitis Day - don’t wait for the warning signs. 

It's 8am. Roads and trains are looking good. It was windy overnight, but right now it's sunny and warming up to a 21-degree day.

7.56am LOCAL NEWS Bulli's Ebony Eden has won the largest prize for watercolour painting in Australia, the James Kiwi Contemporary Watercolour Prize worth $10,000.

7.52am All and Sundry at Woonona has a new brekky and lunch menu starting on Friday. I definitely like the sound of the brown rice porridge with rhubarb and pear - perfect for a wintry morning.

7.48am LOCAL NEWS They were winched, dunked in icy water and thrust into the midst of a simulated emergency - all in a day’s training for the regions’ helicopter paramedic crew.

7.44am From David to Jacob - check out this cool map of the most popular boy names in US states since the ‘60s. Michael had quite a good run!

7.40am July 30 is cheesecake day. Is it too early too indulge?

7.36am A film about Helensburgh and it's coal mining history, Black in Time, is on this Sunday from 2pm to 3.30pm at Wollongong Art Gallery. Free, all welcome.

7.32am LOCAL NEWS A new, three-year research project by The Shepherd Centre has revealed early intervention programs providing listening and speech therapies can give children with hearing loss  the extra help they need.

7.28am STRANGE BUT TRUE Three giant craters have ripped open the earth in Siberia. No one knows what caused them or how deep they are. Some say they saw a flash of light and smoke coming from the sites, others say a celestial body fell there. Weird. SMH

7.24am COMMONWEALTH GAMES Australia leads the medal tally at the end of day 6 at the Commonwealth games, with a total of 101 medals, including 34 gold. England is close behind with 93 medals.

7.20am Most healthy smoothie recipes will tell you to add coconut water. Personally, I find it gross. But, is it actually worth drinking?

7.16am TRAFFIC ALERT All lanes reopened at Woonona after a fallen tree has been removed.

7.12am WORLD NEWS Israel knocked out Gaza's only power plant and pounded dozens of other symbols of Hamas power on Tuesday as more than 110 people were killed in 24 hours, Palestinian officials have said. SMH

7.08am Did you know that NSW ambos have been called out to about 160 home/roadside births this year? Sheesh!

7.04am LOCAL NEWS Moves are under way to correct a historical wrong that reportedly saw the Gerringong Town Hall officially stripped of its town hall status.

It's 7am. Trains are on time, roads are clear around the Illawarra and right now it's about 17 degrees.

6.56am Shark Week is coming! Well, not in Australia, but in the States from August 10. Still, that doesn't mean you can't enjoy this bizarre and amazing promo for it featuring Rob Lowe, a mermaid and some airborne chum. So sharky!

6.52am Looking for something to do this weekend? Head along to see the talented Laura Jackson in Handle It, her one-woman show. It’s on at the Phoenix from August 1-3. Head to the theatre’s website to book.

6.48am LOCAL NEWS One-third of elderly people admitted to Illawarra and Shoalhaven hospitals are "overtly" malnourished but a novel research project between UOW and ISLHD aims to change that.

6.44am Celebrating their b-day today is Arnie Schwarzenegger, Lisa Kudrow and Aussie actor Simon Baker.

6.40am TRAFFIC ALERT A fallen tree continues to block one southbound lane on the Princes Highway at Woonona near Rixons Pass Road. Be careful when driving past. 

6.36am NATIONAL NEWS A group of Catholic and Christian church leaders have accused the Abbott government of ''state sanctioned child abuse'' in the immigration detention system, and called for Immigration Minister Scott Morrison to step down from his position as guardian for all unaccompanied minors. SMH

6.32am Keeping in line with the swimming theme for this morning's cute animal pic, this penguin has his supporter's attire sorted.

6.28am GAMES  The Aussie swim team picks up another gold with Daniel Tranter winning the 200m medley.

6.24am LOCAL NEWS Commuters catching the train from Thirroul station can’t buy an Opal card from a shop anywhere in the suburb, let alone the station itself.  Despite Thirroul being one of the ‘‘hub’’ stations for Sydney commuters, someone catching a train at Thirroul would need to travel to the BP service station in Woonona to buy an Opal card.

6.20am The SMH called on social media to name the new steel sculpture to be erected on George Street. You can read the top suggestions here - so far the Tapeworm and The Bog Roll are leading their poll.

6.16am COMMONWEALTH GAMES Wollongong swimmer Emma McKeon continues to dominate in the pool at Glasgow. Her coach said the 20-year-old had "really stepped up this season."

6.12am We can only hope we're in for another morning like this one.

Warm start: A picturesque dawn turned into the warmest day since winter began as the Illawarra got a thawing taste of spring. The mercury climbed as high as 23 on Tuesday - a full 7 degrees higher than the mean maximum for July. The warmer weather is forecast to continue until Thursday, before a return to more traditional winter temperatures on Friday (17), Saturday (15) and Sunday (16).Picture: KIRK GILMOUR

Warm start: A picturesque dawn turned into the warmest day since winter began as the Illawarra got a thawing taste of spring. The mercury climbed as high as 23 on Tuesday - a full 7 degrees higher than the mean maximum for July. The warmer weather is forecast to continue until Thursday, before a return to more traditional winter temperatures on Friday (17), Saturday (15) and Sunday (16).Picture: KIRK GILMOUR

6.08am Let’s take a look at the national headlines, courtesy of the SMH

*A 51-year-old Department of Environment and Heritage worker is believed to have been shot dead while attending a property 55km north of Moree.

*Federal police have issued arrest warrants for two Sydney men accused of fighting with terrorist groups in Iraq and Syria after they recently posted images from Iraq on Twitter, showing them posing with the heads of executed fighters, holding guns and standing over bloodied bodies.

*Sydney Trains staff are being told to close down ticket gates for about four minutes when Opal card readers do not work, prompting alarm among some about overcrowding in peak periods.

6.05am Here’s what’s making news in your Mercury today.

*St George Illawarra Dragons player Craig Garvey is facing a possible jail term after being found guilty of violently assaulting a man in a Wollongong pub in February.

*Illawarra disability workers will hold a one-hour stopwork protest on Friday over state government plans to privatise the disability services sector.

*Wollongong ratepayers receiving their yearly rate notices this week will be slugged with a now redundant carbon tax, as the council says it is too complicated to remove the extra charges until next year.

6.02am Let’s take a look at the roads and the skies

WEATHER Another sunny day today. The Illawarra is heading for tops of 21 degrees, and it’s already a slightly warm 17.

TRAFFIC It’s looking all right on roads around the Illawarra today. If you’re on the Princes Highway at Woonona travelling south, one lane is closed because of a fallen tree at Rixons Pass Road. Be cautious. There are ongoing roadworks at Gerringong and Mount Ousley.

TRAINS There is good service on the South Coast line.

6am Happy hump day! Welcome to your mid-week edition of Morning Rush.