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Seven Early News -

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(generated from captions) This program is captioned live. This morning - 'Wild Oats XI'
leads the Sydney-Hobart fleet after a controversial start
to the race. An Australian tells how
she survived a fiery plane crash which killed three people. And loved ones mourn the death of the man who created
'The Thunderbirds'. VOICEOVER: This is Seven News,
early edition, with Edwina Bartholomew. 'Wild Oats XI' is maintaining
its lead this morning in the 68th Sydney-Hobart
yacht race. After 16.5 hours of racing, the frontrunners
are off the coast of Eden with controversy brewing over
'Ragamuffin Loyal's false start and 'Wild Thing's exclusion. As dusk fell
on the Sydney-Hobart fleet, 'Wild Oats XI' was keeping
'Ragamuffin Loyal' at bay. It's been a drag race
between the two from the start. COMMENTATOR: And you can just see
the distance between 'Wild Oats'
and 'Ragamuffin'. The hot favourite sped up the
harbour under skipper Mark Richards. So 'Wild Oats', absolutely flying. Last year's line-honours winner,
'Ragamuffin', was close behind and almost too quick off the mark. Ooohh! That's very close. The Cruising Yacht Club ruled
it did jump the gun. There was no recall so 'Ragamuffin'
might not face a penalty. But the biggest controversy
came before the race even started. Third favourite 'Wild Thing' was
kicked out for a lack of paperwork. It's a final decision of the race
committee, which put safety first. Skipper Grant Wharington says
he followed the rules. I dunno whether there's any kind
of conspiracy going on. The current race record is 42 hours,
40 minutes and 10 seconds. So far the leaders
are well off the record pace but they'll gain speed
if northerlies arrive today. A man has been charged
with murdering two elderly people, following a house fire in Melbourne
last Saturday. Emergency services were called
to the blaze at Yarraville and found the bodies inside. Police say their injuries
didn't appear to be self-inflicted. The 24-year-old
is also facing one count of arson. He was remanded in custody after
facing a bail justice last night and is due to reappear in court
today. Molotov cocktails have been thrown
at a Sydney home overnight, smashing through the front windows
and sparking a small fire. Authorities responded to reports
of a fire around 10:30 last night, It's believed an elderly couple
managed to evacuate the house before fire crews
extinguished the blaze. No-one was injured in the incident but police are urging any witnesses
to come forward. A man who was photographed driving at high speed with his feet
sticking out of his car window has contacted Melbourne police after they announced
they knew who he was. The dangerous stunt follows an horrific 24 hours
on Australian roads including the death of a taxidriver,

If we don't slow down
and start doing the right thing this is going to be a horrendous
Christmas-New Year period for us. Police say this man's stunt
amounts to a criminal offence of conduct endangering life. The mother of a young boy
killed in a Christmas Day tragedy in the New South Wales central west, says she'll love him
until the day she dies. 9-year-old Kayleb O'Neill
was riding with a friend at a private property at Wellington. They hit a post
and were thrown into the air. Kayleb suffered massive head
injuries and died at the scene. His 12-year-old mate
is in intensive care. Neither boy was wearing a helmet. killing three people
in central Burma, has been recovered. Five Australians
survived the fiery accident including Anna Bartsch, who's described the landing as a
fast and bumpy roller-coaster ride. Chris and Brian Bartsch had hoped to
hear from their travelling daughter on Christmas Day but when she rang,
they were left in shock. In quite a strong sort of voice, "Mum, listen,
this is very important - we're OK." Not what you'd expect
on Christmas Day. 31-year-old Anna went on
to tell her parents that she and her boyfriend,
Stuart Benson, had survived a plane crash
in central Burma. The Air Bagan passenger jet
carrying 63 passengers, five of them Australian, was attempting an emergency landing
when it crashed into trees. A wing snapped off
and the plane burst into flames. We just felt the first bump and then
a few...big bumps and sliding and very fast. She thought she was trapped
in a burning plane. The pilot reportedly
mistook the road for a runway due to bad weather. An 11-year-old child and
a tour guide on board were killed along with a motorcyclist
on the ground. Chris and Brian are just thankful
their daughter survived. You can lose
all your material possessions and your passports and money but all of that's replaceable. But it was so quick that...it was
hard to think anything. We though... When we stopped,
we thought we were very lucky. It'll be a relief to see her
back on Australian soil. The other three surviving
Australians are from Queensland and weren't seriously injured. Thousands of shoppers
were out spending until midnight at the Boxing Day sales. Nationally, stores are expecting
to ring up $14 billion over the next two weeks.

It was every shopper for themselves
in the battle for the best bargain. BOTH: We're trapped like rats! I'm 77 and I'm holding up. It's incredible. The people are going...
This place is mental. There was no time
for a post-Christmas sleep-in, the keenest shoppers were out of bed
before dawn. We've come from the Sutherland
Shire, got up about 3:00. Hundreds poured through the doors
at 5am in Sydney but the biggest crowds
came throughout the day and stayed until late. Won't go home till they close. At midnight?
Midnight! Retailers are making up
for a flat Christmas. It's estimated Australians
spent $1.8 billion yesterday. At $1.8 billion,
that's about 2.5% up on last year which is still
not the level we'd like but it's better
than it heading the other way. Myer was selling business shirts
at a rate of 50 per minute, 35,000 sets of sheets
will go this week along with 60,000 pairs
of ladies' shoes. Myer and David Jones say they expect to serve
around 19 million customers each. Discounts are bigger than ever as
retailers compete with online sales. Some of our saucepan sets this year,
60% off, last year they were 50%,
the year before, 40%, so we're in the game and
we'll make sure we're competitive. And it's not just ladies
shopping up a storm, a growing number of bargain hunters
are now men. This year they're out in force and they're heading
for the fashion areas and they're travelling in groups. But not everyone's a fan. Are you enjoying yourself?

The chaos will start all over again
this morning.

That poor bloke.

The man who created hit TV series
'Thunderbirds' has died, aged 83. Gerry Anderson passed away
in his sleep, after battling dementia
for the past two years. He was a film and TV producer
for more than 40 years, but 'Thunderbirds'
was his most famous product. The series, which relied
on marionette puppetry, became popular across the world. Now for your first look
at Thursday's weather. Around the capitals -

It'll be a blistering
41 degrees in Perth with the chance
of an afternoon storm. Coming up on 'Sunrise' at 6am - heart attacks are expected
to spike in the next few days. But next on Seven Early News - tourists evacuated
after a fire in a Thailand resort. And two bear cubs rescued
by foresters.

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Tourists have been evacuated
from a resort in Thailand after a fire ripped through
the building in Phuket. No-one was injured in the blaze but several guests
lost all their belongings. The fire destroyed several rooms
at the boutique hotel. It took emergency crews just under
an hour to control the blaze. It's believed the fire started
in a building which houses the hotel's restaurant. Memorial ceremonies
have been held in Thailand for the victims
of the 2004 Boxing Day tsunami which killed nearly
a quarter of a million people. Candles were lit and placed in a trench on the beach,
spanning nearly 3 kilometres, as mourners paid respect
to the victims. The tsunami was triggered
by a 9.3 magnitude earthquake off Sumatra. 26 Australians were killed
in the disaster. Two bear cubs have been rescued
in Russia's far east after their mother
was killed by hunters. The 3-month-olds would have died as they're too small
to take care of themselves. The cubs have been named
Mashka and Mishka and will stay with rangers
until they get bigger.

It isn't just retailers
slashing prices - airlines are also
cutting the cost of fares. Jetstar and Tiger Airways are among
the carriers launching sales, taking advantage
of the post-Christmas spending. Deals include trips from Sydney
and Melbourne to Bali for $199. Travellers are being told the best value deals
are getting snapped up quickly. Miss Universe contestant Renae
Ayris has returned home to Perth after being voted third runner-up. The 22-year-old says she has
big plans for her modelling career It's far from the glitz and glamour
of the Miss Universe catwalk but it's exactly where Renae Ayris
wants to be this Christmas. so it's good to be home
with family and friends. Last week,
the 22-year-old wowed judges at the Miss Universe competition,
one of the favourites to win. MAN: Australia! (CHEERING AND APPLAUSE) The Connolly 22-year-old came fourth behind Miss Philippines
and Miss Venezuela, who was second runner-up. But it was Miss USA who was crowned the most
beautiful woman in the world. (CHEERING) Renae says
the experience was life-changing. Now I look back on it, it was just such a good experience
and everything I did. The memories and everything
I'm gonna have forever. There are no set plans yet But first, a well-earned break. Miss Universe Australia office
is closed until about the 14th so I'll have a little bit
of a break, which is good and then just carry on
with those duties, Your first finance this Early News - US stocks opened slightly higher as President Obama tries
to avoid a fiscal cliff.

Coming up on 'Sunrise' at 6am - cashed-up women spending their money
on designer clothes. But next on Seven Early News - heated scenes as AFL players
were thrown out of the MCG. And Aussies dominate
on day one of the cricket.

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The stories we're following
on the Early News - 'Wild Oats XI' leads
the Sydney-Hobart fleet after a controversial start
to the race. An Australian tells how
she survived a fiery plane crash which killed three people. And loved ones mourn the death of the man who created
the 'Thunderbirds'. Now it's over to Mark Beretta
with all the day's sport. Thanks, Eddy. Good morning. Several AFL players have been
thrown out of the MCG yesterday in ugly scenes
in the infamous Bay 13. The current and former
Melbourne footballers were enjoying the cricket until things turned sour
later in the day. Pictures show Jeremy Howe
putting his singlet back on before being escorted out
by security. Current Geelong player Jared Rivers
needed holding back after being told to leave. While Richmond's Ricky Petterd
paid special attention to some of the other MCG patrons. The AFL is yet to investigate
the incident. While not everyone got
to see the whole day's play, for those who did, it was
a dominant Australian display. Johnson, Siddle and debutant Bird
routed Sri Lanka for 156. Australia's batsmen are already
just a touch short of that total. The inner circle learned
Clarke's fate at the last minute. I'm playing, so bad luck to 'Uzzy'. Bill Lawry handed Jackson Bird
his baggy green. his war story about batting with
the selection chairman a big hit. If you'd have batted
with John Inverarity, you'd have run him out too. (ALL LAUGH) Bird made it a debut to remember,
striking in his second over. COMMENTATOR: Bird gets his first!
What a moment. Sri Lanka in early trouble
when Dilshan took a wild slash. Got him, a ripper! This wedding number
raised a few eyebrows. Looks like Peter Siddle's brother. The real Peter Siddle ending
any hope of a successful union between Sri Lanka's
two best batsmen. That is a beauty. Sangakkara brought up 10,000 test
runs, Mike Hussey took a screamer - inspiration, perhaps,
for Matthew Wade, who etched himself
into Boxing Day folklore... Wade is after it. He dives and takes a beauty! Wade keeping his eye on the ball
for more than 20m. Mitchell Johnson
also thrilled the MCG crowd, almost managing a hat-trick. Johnson...bang on it
and he's bowled a no-ball. Lyon mopping up as Sri Lanka's tail
threw away their wickets. Sri Lankans need
a strong cup of tea. I'm not sure
what they were doing out there. On a perfect pitch,
Dave Warner knew what he was doing. Gone for the big one.
And it's long. It's a beauty! That could go all the way. The aggressive opener
went after Sri Lanka's attack before pushing his luck
once too often. You're kidding? Hughes and Cowan
had a communication breakdown. There's a mix-up here. Phillip Hughes
is at the non-strikers end... ..and he's run out!

Cowan was caught soon after for 36,
answering Sri Lanka's prayers. with confirmation keeper
Jayewardene's got a fractured thumb. The score at the MCG could have been
mistaken for the Big Bash League but the actual Twenty20 match
was at the SCG. The world champion Sydney Sixers
were restricted to 154. Ben Laughlin bagging four wickets as the locals struggled to break
free of their recent slump. Former Australia captain
Ricky Ponting again enjoyed batting on Boxing Day, though not in the baggy green
this time. COMMENTATOR: 50 up
for Ricky Ponting.

That should go to the ropes.

Ponting finished unbeaten
with 63 runs off 52 balls in a man-of-the-match performance. The Sixers are now
all but out of title contention. 'Wild Oats XI' continues
to lead the Sydney-Hobart. The supermaxi is on track to secure
its sixth line honours win, currently around 12 nautical miles
ahead of 'Ragamuffin Loyal' with 'Lahana' in third. The fight for the handicap win
is well and truly alive with 'Primitive Cool'

currently estimated to pip
'Wild Oats' by just six minutes on the corrected time. Brisbane has edged away from
the bottom of the A-League ladder with a 1-0 victory on the road
in Adelaide. The Roar had the best opportunities
of the physical game at Hindmarsh Stadium, seeking their fourth win
of the season. It wasn't until the 65th minute that Brazilian forward Henrique
broke the deadlock. COMMENTATOR: Henrique! The loss is second-placed
Adelaide United's second in a row. Manchester City's hopes of
back-to-back Premier League titles took a hit with a shock 1-0 loss to Sunderland. COMMENTATOR: He shoots.

And he's scored? Yes, he has.

It's the third consecutive time City
has lost at the Stadium of Light. Cross-city rivals Manchester United
survived a scare against Newcastle, coming from behind three times
to steal the points 4-3. The Red Devils now sit seven points
clear on top of the ladder.

Eddy, it's been a big day of sport yesterday, it's going to be even bigger today. Can't wait.Look forward to it Brits. Next a closer look at the

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# I want another day with you. # VOICEOVER: Sunrise and shine,
from 6am weekdays. In breaking news, video has emerged of an Australian man being held
hostage in the Philippines. Warren Richard Rodwell
appeared in the video posted online saying he was kidnapped
more than a year ago. He's being held
by a militant islamic group in the southern Philippines. In the video he says he understands
that negotiations are underway for his release. The video is thought
to have been posted as proof that he is still alive.

Now for a closer look
at how the weather's shaping up around the country - a trough is generating showers
and storms in Queensland and north-east New South Wales. Another trough
is bringing widespread wet weather to the Northern Territory
and Western Australia. It's also sending hot easterlies
into southern Western Australia. Around the capitals -

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