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KNOW IT ALL: Wednesday’s Top 7 Stories at NBC News

Good morning. Here are some of the stories we're following today:

1. Ted Cruz Blasts Cartoon of Kids, Seeks Cash to 'Fight Back'

The Texas senator launched an "emergency" appeal seeking to raise $1 million in 24 hours in response to a Washington Post online editorial cartoon depicting his two young daughters as dancing monkeys. The Republican presidential candidate also criticized the paper for its "tasteless attack" on his children. Read more in POLITICS.

2. Donald Trump: My Use of 'Schlonged' Was 'Not Vulgar'

The GOP presidential front-runner went on the offensive in a series of tweets Tuesday, insisting that his use of the word "schlonged" in reference to Hillary Clinton was "not vulgar." "When I said Hillary got 'schlonged' that meant beaten badly," he tweeted. Read more in POLITICS.

Chuck Todd: Trump's feud with Hillary Clinton benefits both candidates 2:30

3. Trailblazing USAF Major Among 6 Killed in Blast

Not long after the U.S. military repealed its "don't ask, don't tell" policy, Air Force Maj. Adrianna Vorderbruggen married her longtime partner, becoming one of the first American service members to be wed in a same-sex ceremony. On Monday, nearly five years to the day after the repeal was signed into law, the trailblazing officer was killed along with five other Air Force service members in Afghanistan. Read more in NEWS.

4. Weird Pattern Turns Weather Upside-Down

In a reversal of a typical Christmas, forecasters expect New York to be in the mid-60s on the holiday — several degrees higher than Los Angeles. The mild conditions have helped golf courses in New England do brisk business, but the pattern comes at a steep cost for ski resorts and for backcountry skiers. Read more in NEWS.

5. Judge Rules Internet Mogul Can be Extradited to U.S.

Kim Dotcom is eligible to be extradited to America to face online piracy-related charges, a judge ruled Wednesday in New Zealand. Lawyers for Dotcom — the German founder of Megaupload, who legally changed his name from Kim Schmitz a decade ago — immediately vowed to appeal. Read more in NEWS.

6. NASA Calls Off Next Mars Probe Mission

The Insight spacecraft was supposed to take off in March and land on the red planet next year. But NASA said Tuesday that managers have suspended the launch because of an air leak in one of two prime science instruments. Read more in SCIENCE.

7. Mysterious Fireball Lights Up Las Vegas Sky

A streaking fireball spotted in the skies over Nevada and California on Tuesday night had people wondering what it might have been. But U.S. defense officials said there was a simple explanation for the light's origin. Read more in SCIENCE.

Nightly Spotlight

Meet the real life Elf on a Shelf. He's 4 months old and seems to have been up to nonstop mischief — with a little help from dad and Photoshop, that is.

The Real Life Elf on a Shelf That's Going Viral 1:53