KNOW IT ALL: Thursday's Top 6 Stories at NBC News

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Good morning, and happy Thursday. Here are some of the stories we're following today:

1. Pentagon attempted mission to rescue U.S. journalist

The beheading of James Foley by Islamist extremists in Syria led President Barack Obama on Wednesday to condemn the killing, saying the “entire world is appalled” by the “cowardly act.” Behind the scenes, U.S. officials had been working to free Foley and other U.S. hostages being held by ISIS. The attempted rescue occurred earlier this summer, when Special Operations forces swarmed a Syrian compound, officials told NBC News. But that mission failed when the hostages weren’t where the planners thought they were going to be. Meanwhile, ISIS is still believed to be holding three other Americans and others from Britain — with both countries reportedly refusing to pay ransoms. Read more in NEWS.

2. Ebola-afflicted American doctor to be discharged from hospital

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Dr. Kent Brantly was in precarious health when he was flown earlier this month from Liberia, where he was afflicted with the Ebola virus, back to the United States under extraordinary circumstances. Now, Brantly, 33, is set to be released Thursday from the Atlanta hospital where he has been treated. A second infected American, Nancy Writebol, 59, will be released from an isolation unit, but it’s not clear whether she will be able to leave the facility. Ebola remains an epidemic in West Africa, where more than 1,300 people have died since earlier this year. Read more in HEALTH.

3. Ferguson protests take subdued turn with Holder visit

After a past week of nightly turmoil, Wednesday night brought relative calm to the streets of Ferguson, where only six people were arrested, police said. “We saw a different crowd that came out tonight,” said Missouri Highway Patrol Capt. Ron Johnson. Earlier in the day, Johnson met with U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, who visited the St. Louis suburb hoping to ease tensions. The unrest is the result of the fatal shooting of Michael Brown, an unarmed black teenager, by a white police officer. A grand jury began looking at preliminary evidence Wednesday and will ultimately decide whether to indict the officer, a fact-finding process that could take weeks or even months. Read more in NEWS.

4. BofA will shell out over $16.5B in settlement deal

The record-breaking deal between Bank of America and federal and state governments is the largest settlement stemming from the 2008 financial crisis, when the bank had a part in the sale of mortgage-backed securities. Bank of America is expected to pay around $9 billion in cash and the rest in assistance to struggling homeowners. Various banks have had to shell out money as part of penalties for a range of misconduct. Bank of America had argued that it shouldn’t be held liable for some of the subprime mortgages that led to the U.S. economy’s meltdown. Read more at CNBC.

5. Israeli airstrikes claim more lives after collapsed cease-fire

Truce talks crumbled this week between Israel and Hamas, turning Gaza into a war zone again. Palestinian police say a half-dozen people were killed overnight, including senior military leaders, as Israel renewed its air assault. Israeli officials say it was Hamas that violated the cease-fire, and now there’s no immediate end in sight to the fighting. Read more in NEWS.

6. Where are sheriffs refusing to enforce federal gun laws?

In rural communities across America, some sheriffs are declining to go after people based on stricter gun control laws being passed in their states. That’s because the position of sheriff is not found in the U.S. Constitution, and nearly all of America’s 3,080 sheriffs are elected to their positions — whereas state and city police officials are appointed. In New York, for instance, a handful of the state’s 62 sheriffs have vowed not to enforce the high-capacity magazine and assault-weapon bans. Read more in INVESTIGATIONS.

… What’s trending today?

If you happen to be in the ocean when the call of nature hits, don’t feel inhibited, the American Chemical Society says. That’s because human urine is mostly water, and that the sodium and chloride content in it doesn’t harm marine life.