News in Brief: Wikileaks Founder Assange: “There Appears To Be Evidence of War Crimes” and More . . .

Following the release of nearly 92,000 classified documents about the war in Afghanistan on Wikileaks, its founder Julian Assange said the papers contain evidence of war crimes, and called for an urgent investigation, reported the Guardian UK.

A buzz of skepticism is surrounding whether the leaked documents actually revealed anything new. National Security Advisor Gen. James Jones emphasized that the archive, which runs into 2009, did not cover the change in military policy under President Obama, Mother Jones noted. On the Atlantic blog, Andrew Sullivan said the documents show “confirmation of what anyone with eyes and ears could have told you for years,” and at Foreign Policy Thomas Ricks wrote he knows “of more stuff leaked at one good dinner on background.”

Military investigators are checking the computers used by U.S. Army intelligence analyst Bradley Manning to determine if he is the source of the thousands of leaked documents, reported the Wall Street Journal. Twenty-two-year old Manning has been detained in Kuwait since he was charged with the leak, reported AOL News, and his status is unknown.

BP Loses $17 billion, Hayward Steps Down, Activists Shut Down BP Stations

BP is seeing the ramifications of its oil spill in more than one area – the company announced Tuesday that it lost $17 billion over the last three months after setting aside $32 billion towards clean-up, and on Monday an official announced that embattled CEO Tony Hayward will step down in October, reported CBS News. In the same period last year, BP made a record $4.4 billion profit. Now, it is expected to sell $30 billion worth of assets over the next 18 months to cover the cost, the New York Times reported.

Meanwhile, Greenpeace activists in London have shut down BP gas stations across the city. In protest of the environmental damage caused by the oil leaking into the Gulf of Mexico from a BP well, the activists shut the power off at 50 stations and put up signs reading “Closed: Moving Beyond Petroleum,” reported Democracy Now.

Iran Open to Nuclear Talks “Without Any Conditions”

Iran has agreed to take part in unconditional negotiations over its nuclear program, it reportedly told the International Atomic Energy Agency. Ali Asghar Soltanieh, Iran’s nuclear negotiator, said: “The clear message of this letter was Iran’s complete readiness to hold negotiations over the fuel for the Tehran reactor without any conditions.” Democracy Now! reports this statement as the European Union imposes a new round of sanctions on Iran, targeting its foreign trade, banking and energy sectors.

SEIU and UNITE HERE End Dispute

The eighteen-month dispute between the SEIU and UNITE HERE, the nation’s two most prominent unions, has been resolved. The struggle over the assets of the former apparel workers union UNITE were settled with SEIU taking ownership of Amalgamated Bank, the nation’s only labor-owned bank, reported Democracy Now!. UNITE HERE will keep about $75 million in challenged assets, and will have ownership of the former headquarters of the apparel workers in Manhattan.

Tennessee Lt. Gov. Questions Whether Islam a Religion

Tennessee Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey questioned whether Islam falls under the religions guaranteed freedom of worship under the Constitution, reported Talking Points Memo. Ramsey was being questioned about the “threat that’s invading our country from the Muslims” in reference to the controversy over a new Muslim community center. Ramsey responded by expressing support for Constitutional protections of religious expression, but then said “you could even argue whether being a Muslim is actually a religion, or is it a nationality, way of life, cult, whatever you want to call it.”

Castro Absent at Revolution Day

The absence of Cuban revolutionary leader Fidel Castro on the most important day in the Cuban political calendar leaves many questioning the health of the ailing leader. President Raul Castro’s decision not to speak to the 90,000-strong crowd assembled in Santa Clara to celebrate Revolution Day is also causing consternation. July 26th marks the anniversary of Fidel Castro’s 1975 attack on the Moncada barracks which began the revolution. The state media carried a message from Fidel, but did not explain his absence. The 83-year-old fell ill and largely disappeared from public life four years ago, but analysts say his appearance would have signaled his continuing influence and ability to delay would-be reforms by his successor and younger brother, Raul. The Guardian UK noted that “not since the heyday of Kremlinology has so much been read into the presence, or absence, of a communist leader.”