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KNOW IT ALL: Friday’s Top 5 Stories at NBC News

Image: Rayyan Ali

Protestor Rayyan Ali cries as she protests in Herald Square Thursday night in New York, in response to a grand jury's decision not to indict the police officer involved in the death of Eric Garner. A grand jury cleared a white New York City police officer Wednesday in the videotaped chokehold death of Garner, an unarmed black man, who had been stopped on suspicion of selling loose, untaxed cigarettes. John Minchillo / AP

Good morning, and TGIF! Here are some of the stories we’re following today:

1. Anti-police brutality demonstrations grow

In the wake of a grand jury’s decision not to indict a white NYPD officer in the chokehold death of black man Eric Garner in Staten Island, protesters took to the streets for a second night of demonstrations across the U.S. The NYPD arrested more than 200 people as protesters marched across the Brooklyn Bridge and shut down parts of the West Side Highway. Traffic was also halted in Chicago and a crowd staged a “die-in” a block from the National Christmas Tree lighting ceremony in Washington, D.C. Meanwhile, protesters in Phoenix marched over another case of an unarmed black man who was fatally shot by police. Read more in NEWS.

Protesters March After Police Kill Unarmed Black Man 0:21

2. Blastoff! 'Mars Era' begins with NASA test flight

Second time was the charm early Friday morning. A failed bid Thursday to launch the Orion capsule in a test flight was put on hold because of poor weather conditions and a balky fuel valve. But the do-over appeared successful. Orion is being designed to eventually take astronauts to a near-Earth asteroid in the 2020s, and to Mars and its moons in the 2030s. For that reason, NASA portrays this week's test flight as a first step toward deep-space exploration. "I would describe it as the beginning of the Mars era," NASA Administrator Charles Bolden said on NASA TV on Thursday. Read more in SCIENCE.

Orion Deep-Space Capsule Blasts off 1:59

3. Cosby’s lawyer responds to lawsuit

After a woman filed suit claiming Bill Cosby sexually assaulted her in the 1970s when she was 15, the comedian’s lawyer responded in a court papers Thursday that she’s been trying to extort him for money. Attorney Marty Singer said that Judy Huth, who is now 55, "unsuccessfully tried to get money from a tabloid" about 10 years ago by selling the story she told in her lawsuit filed Tuesday. When the story never got published, she demanded a “six-figure” payday, Singer wrote. Cosby has been facing a slew of rape accusations in recent weeks, and the U.S. Navy is the latest institution to revoke his honorary title. Read more in NEWS.

4. Category 5 typhoon takes aim at Philippines

Evacuations were in place Friday in a part of the Philippines that was devastated by a super storm a year ago. This powerful storm, a Category 5 called Typhoon Hagupit, could affect about 32 million people — or a third of the country’s population. “This storm is not going to be quite as strong as (last year’s Typhoon) Haiyan, but the probability is it has the potential to impact some of the same areas that were impacted last year,” said Ari Sarsalari, a meteorologist for The Weather Channel. Read more in NEWS.

5. Obama to announce new defense secretary pick

The president is expected to officially announce former Deputy Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter will be stepping into the role of outgoing Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel — should he get confirmed by the Senate. The name of Carter, a physicist with no armed services experience but with Pentagon credibility, had leaked earlier this week. Hagel is resigning amid stark criticism from Republicans over the Obama administration’s foreign policy, including the handling of the fight against ISIS. Read more in POLITICS.

And now this ...

Forget the North Pole. If you want to catch the biggest gathering of short, red-shirted munchkins, better travel to Thailand.

Thailand Hosts the World's Largest Gathering of Elves 0:35