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Peace Talks with Afghanistan Will Yield ‘Very Positive’ Results: Saudi Arabia

The United States hopes Saudia Arabia and the UAE can push Pakistan to use its leverage on the Taliban to drop their refusal to talk directly with the Afghan government.

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Saudi Arabian ambassador to the United States Prince Khalid bin Salman, left, arrives on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., July 24, 2017. VOA

Afghan peace talks held in the United Arab Emirates will yield “very positive results by the beginning of next year,” the Saudi ambassador to Washington said Thursday, adding to hopes of progress to end the 17-year war in Afghanistan.

Khalid bin Salman added on his Twitter account that the talks were productive and would “help promote intra-Afghan dialog towards ending the conflict.”

The U.S. special envoy for Afghan peace talks, Zalmay Khalilzad arrived in Kabul on Wednesday to meet government leaders following his discussions with Taliban representatives in Abu Dhabi earlier this week.

Officials from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates took part in the Abu Dhabi meeting, at least the third encounter between Khalilzad and Taliban envoys since he was named to oversee the peace effort from Washington’s side in September.

USA, afghanistan, taliban, peace talks
U.S. special envoy for peace in Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad, talks with local reporters at the U.S. embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan, Nov. 18, 2018. VOA

In an interview with Afghanistan’s Ariana Television, Khalilzad repeated that ideally, an agreement would be reached before presidential elections, currently scheduled for April 20.

But he said he had “questions on the Taliban, whether they are genuinely seeking peace.

“It’s desirable to have a peace deal before the elections. But it’s up to the Afghan government and the Taliban,” he said, according to a transcript provided by the U.S. embassy in Kabul.

The United States insists that any peace settlement must be agreed between Afghans but the Taliban have so far publicly refused to talk directly to the Afghan government, which they say is an illegitimate, foreign-imposed regime.

U.S. troops

The urgency around the peace talks was heightened by President Donald Trump’s unexpected decision this week, fulfilling a promise from his 2016 presidential election campaign, to withdraw U.S. troops from Syria.

USA, Afghanistan, Troops, peace talks
U.S. troops listen to a security briefing before leaving their base in Logar province, Afghanistan, Aug. 5, 2018. VOA

According to Western diplomats in Kabul, there is concern among some U.S. allies that Trump may decide a similar move in Afghanistan and Khalilzad is widely believed to have until the middle of next year to come up with a settlement.

The United States hopes Saudia Arabia and the UAE can push Pakistan to use its leverage on the Taliban to drop their refusal to talk directly with the Afghan government.

Khalilzad said that during the meeting, the two countries had proposed a three-month cease-fire between the Taliban and the Afghan government.

Also Read: U.S. and Taliban Conclude Pakistan-Moderated Peace Talks

“The Taliban did not commit on the cease-fire as they said they had to consult their senior leadership,” he said.

“However, we encouraged them (that) in order to reach a quick peace agreement, they should come forward with a rapid positive response to the proposal of the UAE and SKA.” (VOA)

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Americans Tend to Rely on Social Media for News which is often Unreliable: Report

Those who rely on social media and peers for news, on the other hand, don't see those platforms as reliable yet still choose to get their news from these sources

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Social Media
The findings of a research suggest that perceived reliability is not the only factor that drives what Americans choose as their go-to News sources on Social Media. Pixabay

Owing to lack of time and competing demands, one-third of Americans rely on news platforms they acknowledge are less reliable, mainly social media and peers, says a new report.

The other two-thirds of the public consider their primary news sources trustworthy, mainly print news and broadcast television, according to the report from California-based non-profit RAND Corporation.

“A lack of time and competing demands may explain why a third of Americans turn to news sources they deem less reliable, which suggests improving the quality of news content or teaching people how to ‘better consume’ news isn’t enough to address ‘Truth Decay,'” said Jennifer Kavanagh, senior political scientist and co-author of the report.

“Media companies and other news providers may need to provide more easily accessible and digestible ways for individuals to consume high quality investigative journalism”.

“Truth Decay” is a phenomenon defined as diminishing reliance on facts, data and analysis in public life.

The report draws from a national survey of 2,543 Americans to examine how reliability, demographics and political partisanship factor into news choices and how often people seek out differing viewpoints in the news.

About 44 per cent of respondents reported that news is as reliable now as in the past, while 41 per cent said it has become less reliable and 15 per cent – mostly women, racial and ethnic minorities and those without college degrees – said it is more reliable.

Social Media
Owing to lack of time and competing demands, one-third of Americans rely on News platforms they acknowledge are less reliable, mainly Social Media and peers, says a new report. Pixabay

Respondents who lean on print and broadcast platforms were more likely to deem them reliable.

Those who rely on social media and peers for news, on the other hand, don’t see those platforms as reliable yet still choose to get their news from these sources.

“The findings suggest that perceived reliability is not the only factor that drives what Americans choose as their go-to news sources,” said Michael Pollard, a sociologist and lead author of the report.
“Despite acknowledging that there are more reliable sources for news, people with demands on their time may be limited to using less reliable platforms.”

Asked whether they ever seek out alternate viewpoints when catching up on the news, 54 per cent said they “sometimes” do, 20 percent said, “always or almost always,” 17 per cent said “infrequently,” and 9 percent said, “never or almost never.”

The report also identified the four most common combinations of news media types consumed by Americans: print publications and broadcast television, online, radio, and social media and peers.

Those who are college-educated were less likely to get their news from social media and peers, instead opting for radio and online sources.

Social Media
Media companies and other News providers may need to provide more easily accessible and digestible ways for individuals to consume high quality investigative journalism, especially on Social Media. Pixabay

Those with less than a college education were more likely to report “never or almost never” seeking out news with alternate viewpoints.

“Those who are married were three times more likely than singles to rate their peers as the most reliable source for news,” said the report.

ALSO READ: Here’s how you can Appear More Competent Through your Clothing

Unmarried people were more likely than married people to report they “always or almost always” seek out sources with differing views. (IANS)