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Seven Early News -

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the investigation into allegedly
corrupt Customs officers working in our airports. US Vice-President Joe Biden
to lead major efforts against gun violence in America. And the claims from the alleged
offender in the road rage attack that was caught on camera.

VOICEOVER: This is Seven Early News
with Natalie Barr. Good morning. A major investigation is underway into Customs officers
allegedly receiving bribes to turn a blind eye to drugs
being smuggled into Australia. Up to 20 officers could be involved. The allegations are believed
to follow a lengthy investigation by the Australian Federal Police. Some sources believe Lebanese crime
gangs have infiltrated Customs at Sydney International Airport. A media conference is expected
to be held this morning, revealing more information
about the allegations. A search will resume this morning
for a 2-year-old girl, feared drowned near the
Mandurah Estuary - south of Perth. An aerial and water search failed
to find the little girl last night. It's believed she had been crabbing
with her parents when she vanished. In the aftermath of
the Connecticut school shootings, US Vice-President Joe Biden
will spearhead any efforts to come up with policies
to address gun violence. Mr Biden will head
a government panel to formulate a response
to the use of weapons following the Sandy Hook tragedy. The fact that this problem
is complex can no longer be an excuse
for doing nothing. The panel is expected to look
at possible new gun legislation, gun sales
and mental health policies. Staff at Sandy Hook Elementary
are now facing the tough task of deciding what to do
with the school. Some students at other schools
have returned to class, but for those caught up
in the shooting, it's a very different story. In Newtown, Connecticut Tuesday, parents held their kids
a little tighter as they dropped them off at school. There's no words. Just tears. These are the students
at the other schools in Newtown. I just wanted to get them
back to routine but everybody's just,
you know, just heartbroken. But for the parents of students
at Sandy Hook Elementary.... She lost nine of her friends
that day. ..it's still hard to imagine
sending them back. Eric Milgram's daughter Lauren hid
in a bathroom with her entire class as students were gunned down
in the room next door. There were only, I believe,
four first grade classrooms, two of them
were basically massacred. She's just too afraid to go back. She doesn't want to go
to any school now because she's just so afraid
of another gunman or something else bad happening. Administrators haven't decided when
Sandy Hook students will return but they know it will be
in nearby Monroe. The neighbouring town
has offered an empty school that was scheduled to be turned
into a rec centre - now transformed into a replica
of Sandy Hook. Even down to the teachers' desks. All the furniture is gonna be
brought in that can be brought in, about 98% of what they saw
at Sandy Hook school will be recreated in each classroom. Of course, nothing will ever be
the same for the survivors and the town heartbroken
by the violent rampage is filled with strong feelings
about what to do with the building. I think they should just level it,
personally, and build a memorial. New polls show Australians
are tipping the Coalition to come to power
at the next federal election. The latest Newspoll shows 47% of all voters believe
the Coalition will win next year. Nearly a quarter of Labor voters
supported that prediction.

The poll also shows
only 13% of voters believe having a minority government
has been beneficial. Nearly half of all those asked said the quality
of government had been worse. A man allegedly responsible
for a shocking road rage attack captured on video in Brisbane has now spoken to police.

He is yet to be charged, but two more alleged victims
have come forward, saying they also feared
for their lives. After his antics were broadcast
to more than a million people, Australia's angriest driver
didn't feel like talking. Are you able to tell us
what happened out on the road? I'm not talking to you,
I'm talking to the copper. What happened out there
on the road? You'll find out
when we've talked to the police. It's the chilling road rage attack
that has the nation talking... MAN: He's jumping on by bonnet.
He's smashed my windscreen! ..every heart-stopping moment
caught on camera. (THUD!) The call to police, recorded. I can't do anything,
he's trying to run me off the road. WOMAN: (ON PHONE) I know. All I'm trying to tell you is keep
driving to the police station. Well, I can't, he keeps cutting
in front of me and cutting me off. Now another person has come forward

claiming a driver in the same
black ute also targeted her. You can see there's oncoming traffic and he would have just cut straight
in front of them. He swerved once again out
over these double lines. She was too afraid to show her face, fearing the man who stalked driver
Ken Olsen, will again target her. I don't wanna be a statistic
and nor does anybody else. He's a maniac and he should not be
on the road at all. The 21-year-old was questioned
for 90 minutes yesterday. He claims the video was doctored. You get a video
and you get everything, if you didn't make a fake,
a fake video... Tell us what happened.
It was a fake video, was it? He could now face several charges
including dangerous driving, wilful damage and the more serious offence
of using his car as a weapon. Sydney police
are investigating links between a man gunned down
outside his home and the shooting death of a relative
three weeks ago. 28-year-old Bachir Arja
was shot dead after a phone call
inviting him to step outside. He was related by marriage
to Ali Eid who was shot just blocks away
last month. We will look at links
between last night's shooting and, certainly,
the murder of Mr Eid.

Police have confirmed
it was a targeted attack. Indigenous leaders in Queensland
are calling for calm after tempers flared at a meeting
designed to ease racial tensions. It follows the death
of a 17-year-old indigenous boy who was hit by a train on Monday just moments after a fight
with a group of Samoans. His family refuses
to believe it was not race related. It's fuelled by rumours.

Unfortunately, it's also fuelled
by a number of rubbish reports on social media. On Facebook and Twitter. Police remained on guard at
the train station last night. A Brisbane family has received
a life-changing assistance dog, trained to be a companion
for their young autistic son. The Labrador is part of a special
Australian team of smart pups, making things a little easier
for families. Christmas came early today
for the McPherson family. A new best friend
for 4-year-old Fergus and a whole new world
for his mum and dad. We've had...um, an inability
to really go places before outside of the house without fear. Fergus was diagnosed with autism
at the age of two. He often gets anxious and runs away. We've been trapped at home
for most of the time, especially if I'm on my own. I just don't go anywhere. Can't. All that changed
when they met Rocco - one of eight Autism Assistance Dogs
in Australia. It takes 12-15 months
to train these dogs. They start from eight weeks of age. Trained to distract Fergus
when he's upset and find him if he wanders away, playgrounds and cafes are on the
family agenda for the first time. He's like an extra pair of hands,
like an extra adult in our arsenal. Each dog costs $23,000
and families pay nearly half. The McPhersons raised the money
with the help of friends who held raffles and games nights. We're a charity
and we rely on donations. A hard-working helper bringing joy
to this family's Christmas. We're actually looking forward
to the holidays. First time ever we've been
looking forward to the holidays.

What a great story.

Now for your first look
at Thursday's weather - Partly cloudy and a warm day
on the way for Sydney. The chance of a morning storm
in Canberra.

And an inland storm
for Darwin. Coming up on 'Sunrise' at 6am - the suburbs where it's cheaper
to buy than rent. But next on Seven Early News - the first load of emergency supplies
arrives in cyclone ravaged Fiji. And who could it be?

We reveal 'Time Magazine's
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The first military shipment of
emergency supplies from Australia has arrived in Fiji,
following Cyclone Evan. The C17 Globemaster plane
left Queensland yesterday - touching down on the battered island
last night. Fiji is slowly
getting back to normal after the worst tropical storm
in 20 years. Tarpaulins, hygiene supplies
and basic necessities have all been delivered to locals. An internal BBC review
has cleared the broadcaster of covering up allegations
of child sex abuse against late presenter Jimmy Savile. The official investigation
found no substance to claims current affairs program 'Newsnight'
dropped the story because it clashed
with a Christmas tribute to Savile. But it did find fault with the BBC's handling
of the events that followed. The level of chaos and confusion was even greater
than was apparent at the time. The investigation into claims
against Savile continues. A veteran team of space explorers is headed for
the International Space Station after successfully blasting off
from a Kazakhstan launch pad. Family members braved
minus-zero-degree temperatures to watch the Russian 'Soyuz'
spacecraft take-off in a brilliant burst of orange. MAN: Five, four, three, two, one
and lift-off. The 'Soyuz' is currently
the only spacecraft able to send humans into orbit after the US shut down
its space shuttle program. US President Barack Obama
has been named as 'Time' magazine's
Person of the Year. It's the second time
he's be honoured with the title. The magazine's editors say President Obama is a symbol
of a changing America. He's also the first president
since Roosevelt to win more than 50% of the vote
in two straight elections. Other past recipients of the title
include economist Ben Bernanke and Facebook founder
Mark Zuckerberg. Your first finance this Early News - Wall Street was mixed this morning.

Giant pumpkins are usually
associated with Halloween but one woman in America has created
a rather unusual Christmas ornament. The pumpkin has been painted
as Santa but the artist reveals he didn't
start out looking so festive. Forget the corncob pipe
and the button nose... WOMAN: He has sweet potato ears
and the rest is pumpkin. ..this holiday standout is
334 pounds of solid pumpkin. Jeanette Paras is the creator. And although she's been transforming
giant pumpkins into works of art for years...

From 1988 to 2012 - 24 years so when I started doing this, I was, ah...
10 years old. This one is different. It's the first time she's turned her Halloween tradition
of 'pumpkinizing' celebrities into a Christmas one. Why decorate with just garland,
red bows and Christmas lights? Let's have a 334 pound pumpkin
instead. If you look beyond
Santa's full white beard and fit-to-scale red hat, you might see a slight resemblance
to Prince Harry. After Halloween,
a couple of weeks passed, and he was still good,
he was still solid. And I thought why not just turn
Prince Harry into Santa Claus? Yes, Jeanette is getting
some mileage out of this year's giant gourd. And this Kris Kringle
even has reindeer. Oscar and Tilly put
Santa's size into perspective.

Great story.

Coming up on 'Sunrise' at 6am -
a warning for parents this summer after a 4-year-old almost died
from a tick. But next on Seven Early News - the Melbourne Renegades
in blistering form in the Big Bash. And a hero's welcome for our newest surfing world
champion, Joel Parkinson.

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The stories we're following
on the Early News - as many as 20 customs officials
are believed to be involved in serious misconduct
at Sydney airport. There are claims they have been
helping import drugs. Parents and teachers
at Sandy Hook Elementary are struggling to decide
what to do with the school - which remains closed. More vigils for the victims
of the shooting are being held across Newtown, Connecticut. And the latest poll out today shows more voters believe the
Coalition will win the next election than the Labor Party. It also says Australians
don't support minority rule. Now it's over to Mark Beretta
with all the day's sport. Thanks, Nat. Good morning. with being axed from
the Australian team last year but says he's better prepared
this time round. Khawaja's been called
into the squad as injured skipper Michael Clarke
races the clock to be fit for the Boxing Day Test. As Clarke limped back into Sydney,
Khawaja was leaving, pulled from the Thunder's
Big Bash clash for a batting boot camp
back in Brisbane. I think I've grown as a player
and as a person. I've just got a few more experiences
under my belt. Still, he won't get another chance
if the captain has his way. I've got my work cut out over the next six days of rehab,
recovery and treatment. But, yeah, I'm confident
I'll be right for Boxing Day. Clarke's come under fire
from Stuart MacGill who says he should share the blame
for Nathan Lyon's lack of wickets. He's the captain, he's the selector,
he's not just qualified. I'm disappointed that he hasn't been
in his ear every ball, slow down, slow down. Tasmania's Jackson Bird's
the other new face. Sheffield Shield's
leading wicket taker could swoop
on Ben Hilfenhaus's position. I didn't get a very good sleep
last night - the phone was ringing non-stop. Including calls from
his movie-making dad in Romania. He could team
with a fired-up Peter Siddle, fuming over allegations
of ball tampering. About 15-20 cameras
around the ground and, what - a million people
watching the match? You think I'm gonna be that stupid? The Melbourne Renegades are on top
of the Big Bash League ladder after romping to a 7-wicket win over the Hobart Hurricanes
last night. After getting a cheeky present from
team-mates for his 38th birthday, Ricky Ponting got the Hurricanes
off to a promising start. He made a run-a-ball 25 before
falling to his old nemesis, Murali. The visitors could only manage 9/102 and the Renegades had no trouble
chasing down the modest total. Aaron Finch was robbed of a six when he blasted a ball
into an Etihad Stadium roof beam. COMMENTATOR: It didn't hit the roof,
it just hit one of the beams. That's how well he hit it. The Renegades captain
finished unbeaten on 46. Collingwood coach Nathan Buckley
has hit back at suggestions Dane Swan is a bad influence
on his team-mates. Buckley admits he did raise
the topic with Swan but says the Brownlow Medallist's
attitude has been exceptional at the Magpies' training camp
in Utah. Meanwhile, St Kilda superstar
Lenny Hayes could be even better next year
after recent heart surgery..

They say that, you know, down the track I should track I should notice the difference. But at the moment, I don't really. Like, preseason is still hard.

The 32-year-old had surgery
in September to fix what's known
as a hole in the heart. The NRL is expected to register Sonny Bill Williams'
Roosters contract by the end of the week. Delays in registering the contract
prompted fears Williams could be lost
to rugby league like fellow code-hopper
Israel Folau. But now the deal is all but done, the Kiwis are hoping Williams
will make himself available for next year's World Cup. Once he gets settled back
into the NRL, then we can establish
whether he's ready. He's definitely in our plans. The NRL decided against including
Williams' boxing prize money in the Roosters' salary cap. Newly crowned world surfing
champion Joel Parkinson is back on home soil. He was expecting just close friends
and family but hundreds of fans greeted
Parkinson at Gold Coast Airport last night.

Parko says a host of near-misses
have made has maiden world title all the more sweet.

To have had, I guess,
the scars and the bruises...

And to get one, it definitely does feel real sweet.He's determined to go back to back next year. One of the great stories of the year. Welcome home, Parko and well done. Yes, go, Yes, go Parko. Next the weather in your

Now for a closer look at how
the weather's shaping up around the country.

And that's Seven Early News
for this Thursday. I'm Natalie Barr.
Stand-by now for 'Sunrise'. Supertext captions by
Red Bee Media - www.redbeemedia.com.au