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Geopolitics

With Survivors And Victims, A Month After Pakistani School Massacre

Relatives of the victims
Relatives of the victims
Mudassar Shah and Shahab-ur-Rahman

PESHAWAR — Shahana Khan had to wake her son up on the morning of December 16. He was late for school and she had to push him out the door. He was one of the 132 students who didn’t come home.

“I cry all the time thinking I told him to go to school. I opened the gate for him,” mourns Shahana.

At this time she would normally be making him breakfast: “I feel him in the house all the time and hear him. People say it’s just in my head but for me it is very real. I hear him say ‘please stop crying mom’.”

Not far from Shahana’s house, 15-year-old Baqir Khan is getting ready to go to school on this cold winter morning. He survived the school shooting but his mother who was a teacher was killed, among the 13 non-students who died in the Taliban terro attack on the military school.

“I miss my mother," he said. "I was saved because she always prayed for me."

Today Baqir's father is taking him to school.

Security at the school is high. The blood has been cleaned away and parts of the school have been repaired and repainted. But the main auditorium hall where most of the children were massacred remains closed.

Students and parents gather and pray. They remember those who are gone.

Regional coordinator Azra Yasmeen Paracha encourages the parents to continue sending their children to the school: “Being Muslim we have to continue to keep the candle of education burning," Paracha tells the gathering. "To pay homage to the martyrs we have to keep this unity. Soon the enemies of education will be eliminated.”

The students then move off to the classrooms.

Mohammad Anas has steel rods in his arm that is hanging in a sling. “I was shot twice in this arm. I lost 17 classmates. I want to forget it but it is really hard," he says. "I don’t want to go into the auditorium. The school feels very different without my friends.”

Malik Tahir Awan, lost his elder son Usama Tahir in the attack. Today he is here with his surviving son, Hassan.

“Hassan is now feeling better. He has been having very bad dreams and can’t sleep properly. We have to motivate him. I play tennis with him every day. Today he was willing to visit the school and meet the others who survived,” said Malik Tahir Awan.

Hassan says he misses his brother. “When I go near the hall or the auditorium I feel him. I am not scared though. I will keep studying and I will avenge my brother’s death when I join the army.”

Standing nearby is Mohammad Amir he is looking off into the distance: “I can’t forget the scenes which keep coming to my mind again and again. Today I came to school to see how many of my friends survived.”

Fahad Ali, 14, hurries to catch the school bus home. He says his parents were worried about sending his back to school, but he insisted. “I want to fight against the terrorists. I don't want to let them take away our pens or books.”

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Green

Forest Networks? Revisiting The Science Of Trees And Funghi "Reaching Out"

A compelling story about how forest fungal networks communicate has garnered much public interest. Is any of it true?

Thomas Brail films the roots of a cut tree with his smartphone.

Arborist and conservationist Thomas Brail at a clearcutting near his hometown of Mazamet in the Tarn, France.

Melanie Jones, Jason Hoeksema, & Justine Karst

Over the past few years, a fascinating narrative about forests and fungi has captured the public imagination. It holds that the roots of neighboring trees can be connected by fungal filaments, forming massive underground networks that can span entire forests — a so-called wood-wide web. Through this web, the story goes, trees share carbon, water, and other nutrients, and even send chemical warnings of dangers such as insect attacks. The narrative — recounted in books, podcasts, TV series, documentaries, and news articles — has prompted some experts to rethink not only forest management but the relationships between self-interest and altruism in human society.

But is any of it true?

The three of us have studied forest fungi for our whole careers, and even we were surprised by some of the more extraordinary claims surfacing in the media about the wood-wide web. Thinking we had missed something, we thoroughly reviewed 26 field studies, including several of our own, that looked at the role fungal networks play in resource transfer in forests. What we found shows how easily confirmation bias, unchecked claims, and credulous news reporting can, over time, distort research findings beyond recognition. It should serve as a cautionary tale for scientists and journalists alike.

First, let’s be clear: Fungi do grow inside and on tree roots, forming a symbiosis called a mycorrhiza, or fungus-root. Mycorrhizae are essential for the normal growth of trees. Among other things, the fungi can take up from the soil, and transfer to the tree, nutrients that roots could not otherwise access. In return, fungi receive from the roots sugars they need to grow.

As fungal filaments spread out through forest soil, they will often, at least temporarily, physically connect the roots of two neighboring trees. The resulting system of interconnected tree roots is called a common mycorrhizal network, or CMN.

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