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10 things you need to know today: August 22, 2014

Harold Maass
The National Guard withdraw from Ferguson.  (Scott Olson/Getty Images)
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1.

Nixon pulls National Guard from Ferguson as protests grow calmer

Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon (D) announced Thursday that National Guard troops would begin withdrawing from Ferguson after two days of easing tensions there. Nixon said the troops had helped restore calm following sometimes violent protests over the killing of Michael Brown, an unarmed black teen, by a white policeman on Aug. 9. Attorney General Eric Holder visited the St. Louis suburb on Wednesday and promised a fair investigation.

2.

Judge rules Florida's gay-marriage ban unconstitutional

A federal judge in Florida declared the state's same-sex marriage ban unconstitutional on Thursday. U.S District Judge Robert L. Hinkle ordered the state to allow same-sex marriages and to recognize legal unions performed in other states. Hinkle said that in 50 years the ban will be seen as "an obvious pretext for discrimination." He did, however, stay most of the ruling's effects pending appeals.

3.

GAO says the Bergdahl prisoner swap was illegal

The prisoner exchange that freed Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl violated federal law, the General Accountability Office said in a legal opinion sent to Congress Thursday. Under a law passed in February, the GAO said, President Obama should have notified lawmakers 30 days in advance of his plan to swap five Guantanamo Bay detainees for Bergdahl, who was captured by the Taliban in 2009.

4.

Bank of America to pay record $16.65 billion settlement

Bank of America has agreed to a record $16.65 billion settlement to put an end to an investigation into its sale of risky mortgage securities before the housing crash. The bank will pay $9.65 billion in fines and $7 billion in aid to devastated communities. "This historic resolution — the largest such settlement on record — goes far beyond 'the cost of doing business,'" said Attorney General Eric Holder.

5.

Russian aid convoy rolls into eastern Ukraine

Russia sent a convoy of aid trucks into eastern Ukraine toward the besieged rebel stronghold of Luhansk on Friday. Reporters said about 70 of the 260 trucks, which had been delayed at the border for more than a week, crossed the border, apparently without approval from Ukraine's government. The trucks were accompanied by pro-Russian separatist fighters — not the Red Cross, as required under terms negotiated by Moscow and Kiev.

6.

Foley's family releases last message from ISIS

GlobalPost on Thursday released the final message that ISIS sent the family of kidnapped American freelance journalist James Foley before his murder. The note, sent on Aug. 12, was addressed to "the American government and their sheep like citizens." Previous messages had demanded ransom. The final one threatened bloodshed, saying, "You and your citizens will pay the price of your bombings" of ISIS in Iraq.

7.

Stocks rise on better-than-expected economic data

The S&P 500 Index soared to a record and the Dow Jones Industrial Average returned to the 17,000 level on Thursday as positive financial news gave stocks a boost. Reports on existing home sales and manufacturing surpassed expectations. The good news overshadowed the release of Federal Reserve meeting minutes earlier in the week suggesting that the central bank might raise interest rates sooner than expected due to signs of a strengthening economic recovery.

8.

Treasury inspector general rules Jay-Z and Beyonce's Cuba trip legal

The U.S. Treasury Department's inspector general has concluded that Jay-Z and Beyonce's Cuba trip to celebrate their fifth wedding anniversary did not violate the 51-year-old embargo barring tourist trips to the communist island. The musical power couple angered Florida Republicans, but the inspector general's office said their visits to an art school and theater group made their trip a legal educational exchange.

9.

Court confirms Joki Widodo as Indonesia's next president

An Indonesian court ended the country's bitter presidential election dispute on Thursday when it rejected a challenge to Jakarta Governor Joko Widodo's 8.4-million-vote victory. The constitutional court found no evidence of the systematic fraud claimed by Suharto-era general Prabowo Subianto. A spokesman for Prabowo and his running mate were disappointed but respect the decision, "which is final and binding."

10.

U.S. aid workers leave hospital after recovering from Ebola

Doctors at Emory University Hospital in Atlanta released American aid workers Dr. Kent Brantly and Nancy Writebol from a specialized isolation unit on Thursday after treating them for Ebola. Brantly and Writebol were flown back from West Africa after they were infected while treating Ebola patients, and improved after receiving an experimental drug. "Today is a miraculous day," Brantly said.

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