Canadian hacker apprehended for watching people through their webcams

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RCMP have arrested a Canadian woman on charges of installing a virus on the computers of people in Canada and abroad and viewing the victims using their webcams. The hacker also allegedly communicated with some of her victims and caused alarm by opening extreme pornography on their computers.

The suspect is a 27-year-old woman, Valerie Gignac, who was arrested by RCMP at her home in Saint-Alphonse-Rodriguez, Quebec Wednesday morning.

The woman is believed to be at the root of a botnet, a network of computers infected with a virus and controlled remotely. The suspect allegedly used malicious remote-access software to control infected computers and spy on their victims via their webcams.

According to initial reports, the alleged hacker took malicious pleasure in listening to private conversations. She also communicated with victims through the speakers of the infected computers, according to the reports, as well as causing them alarm by using their computers to open webpages showing extreme pornography.

The alleged attacker broadcast her exploits on YouTube, investigators say. They discovered several videos where you see a remote hacker take control of infected computers and scare victims.

Gignac is also the owner of an online hacking forum with 35,000 worldwide users, according to reports. The forum, which was hosted in Canada, has been seized by authorities.

The victims, including some minors, include Canadians as well as people of other nations.

The arrest was conducted by investigators from the RCMP’s Integrated Technological Crime Unit. The operation took place with the assistance of the Sûreté du Québec, Quebec’s provincial police force.

The suspect was scheduled to appear Wednesday afternoon at the Joliette courthouse to deal with unauthorized use of a computer and charges of mischief in relation to data under Canada’s Criminal Code.

By James Haleavy

Offering too much weakens relationships in the microbe world

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Some microbe species produce nutrients that are consumed by neighboring species, which in turn share nutrients that they produce, but a mystery of this relationship has puzzled scientists: Why do some of the shared molecules have chemical units that seemingly have the sole function of slowing the diffusion of nutrients to neighboring microbes? A team of researchers from Boston University thinks they may have found the answer in a consideration of cooperation in game theory.

“The diffusion of small molecules could have a profound effect on microbial population dynamics,” Boston University’s Rajita Menon told The Speaker. “The main effect of this diffusion is the reduction of the effective strength of natural selection, which can lead to the loss of mutualism.”

Rajita Menon

“We provide a theory for the phenomena observed in recent experiments that could potentially explain why cooperatively growing microbes modulate the diffusivities of secreted nutrients.”

When microbes produce shared nutrients at a small diffusion rate, they are brought close together to intermix, and this cooperation is stable over time. But, Menon and her adviser and follow researcher Dr. Kirill Korolev believe, as a species releases nutrients into its environment at a greater rate, mixing decreases.

This is because neighboring organisms can benefit from the diffusion even at significant distances from the producing organisms, and this means that the producing organisms lose their neighborhood benefits.

When two species share nutrients, the researchers found, the species that diffuses nutrients more slowly dominates the relationship. It can even force its neighbor towards extinction.

Biologists have used standard game theory to try to understand why some microbes produce biomolecules that have the sole purpose of slowing diffusion of nutrients to neighboring molecules, but until now the theory has not brought satisfactory answers. Menon and Korolev, however, state that the model can still be used if we consider that greater sharing of metabolites reduces cooperation strength, causing a nonequilibrium phase transition toward species extinction.

Relation of species coexistence and nutrient diffusion in microbes (Figure from the report)

“Traditional game theory considers pair-wise microbe to microbe interactions under the assumption that microbes interact only with their closest neighbors,” Menon told us. “However, unlike human societies or bee colonies, microbial communities rarely rely on direct contact. Instead, microbes primarily communicate through a many to many exchange of diffusible molecules. Our theory describes how nutrient diffusion renormalizes the strength of selection and influences the spatial distribution of species. We are able to integrate the complex effects of nutrient diffusion in our model while retaining the essential simplicity and accessibility of game theory. “

“Simple models of cooperation in microbial ecosystems have not been able to take nutrient diffusion into account, while more complicated models that try to do so are difficult to analyze and test. Our work was motivated by this gap in understanding that could be potentially important to maintaining cooperation in microbial colonies. The results of our study indicate that fast-diffusing nutrients weaken mutualism.”

There is, the researchers conclude, a critical level of nutrient sharing the creates stable cooperation over time.

“It is… harder to establish mutualism than we would expect from models that neglect nutrient diffusion,” Menon stated. “Further, species can gain a fitness advantage by producing faster or slower diffusing nutrients in a natural environment. They have an incentive to actively control the diffusion constants of their nutrients.”

By Cheryl Bretton


29 attacks, two engagements reported by Ukrainian Army

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On the night of April 24, 29 attacks and two engagements were reported by the Ukrainian Military to have taken place between Russian and pro-Russian forces and Ukrainian forces in the Donbass.

Russian and pro-Russian forces clashed with Ukrainian forces in two locations – Marinka and Avdeyevka, both near separatist-held Donetsk.

Of the 29 reported overnight attacks, 11 were conducted with 120 mm mortars on positions near Granitnoye, Peski, Popasnaya, Kirov and Avdeyevka.

The use of mortars with anything beyond 100 mm caliber is a violation of the Minsk agreement, as such weapons should have been withdrawn from the front line.

Other attacks took place near Shirokino, Opytnoye, Mayorsk and Lozovoye, in addition to two attacks in Lugansk.

The 29 overnight attacks brings the total attacks for the 24 hour period to around 50.

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko stated Friday that if another offensive was launched by Russian and Pro-Russian forces in Ukraine, the president would move immediately toward a state of martial law and a wartime stance.

“The armed forces of Ukraine, and I as the supreme commander of those forces, have given clear guarantees that we will abide scrupulously by the Minsk agreements. We will not take the offensive,” announced Poroshenko.

The Ukrainian president said that if Ukrainian troops were attacked all measures would be taken to protect them. He mentioned the need for a UN or EU peacekeeping mission in the east of the country.

“Two options exist: either we invite peacekeepers who, acting in accordance with the UN Security Council’s decisions, serve as a line of control on the Ukraine-Russia border – for what? To avoid conflict, to prevent provocations… or a mission by the European Union, which today is also ready to take on this responsibility.”

Poroshenko did not elaborate on the issue to say what would constitute a new offensive.

By James Haleavy

Babies’ and children’s brain growth limited without fish oil fatty acids

fish oil
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According to new research by UCI scientists, fetus’, babies’ and children’s brains need the types of fatty acids found in fish to develop. Dietary deficiencies in this area actually limits brain growth, Susana Cohen-Cory, professor of Neurobiology and Behavior at the University of California-Irvine’s School of Biological Sciences and lead researcher on the study, found.

The study represents proof for the first time of how n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids cause changes in the molecules of a developing brain. Constraints caused by deficiency of these nutrients result in limited growth of neurons and connecting synapses because docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), which is required neural and synaptic development, is based on fatty acids.

The team used African clawed frogs. The frogs were an excellent model, according to the researchers, because the embryos develop outside of the mother and are translucent, so the development of neurons and synapses can be observed in the intact, living embryos.

The team found that when they cut off the fatty acids to female frogs, the healthy growth of the central nervous system of their tadpole offspring was inhibited — poorly developed neurons and limited numbers of synapses resulted.

When the researchers returned the fatty acids to the next generation of mother frogs, neuronal and synaptic development returned to normal for the third generation.

The foods that have n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids include salmon, mackerel, trout, sardines, herring and other oily fish — which are the richest source of this nutrient. They can also be found in eggs and meat. Other foods, such as nuts, whole grains, dark green leafy vegetables and nuts also have the fatty acids, but much less. Oily fish contain 10 to 100 times more dietary DHA than the non-meat options.

Additionally, DHA is present in breast milk. It is also an ingredient in baby formulas and is a supplement for premature babies.

The study, “Impact of Maternal n-3 Polyunsaturated Fatty Acid Deficiency on Dendritic Arbor Morphology and Connectivity of Developing Xenopus laevis Central NeuronsIn Vivo,” was completed by Miki Igarashi, Rommel A. Santos, and Susana Cohen-Cory

By Cheryl Bretton

Pew finding on future of religious groups: Muslims will grow more than twice as fast as world population over next 40 years

Pew finding on future of religious groups: Muslims will grow more than twice as fast as world population over next 40 years
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The current world population is 7 billion – 1.6 billion are Muslim. Over the next 40 years, the world population is projected to increase 35 percent to 9.3 billion, according to Pew research, and of eight major religious groups calculated, only Muslims will outstrip the overall rate of population growth.

While Christians, Jews and Hindus are expected at remain at nearly the same level as the overall population – 35 percent – and Buddhists, adherents of folk religions, the unaffiliated and other religions will decline, Muslims will increase by 73 percent by 2050.

The reason for this difference, Pew found, was that on average Muslims have more children than people of other faiths. ScreenHunter_4273 Apr. 23 12.59Muslims as a group also have a younger median age, meaning more of Muslims will soon be having children.

Also, many Muslim regions are projected to have significantly higher numbers of children than regions inhabited primarily by other religions, Pew found. While European and North American families have 2 – 2.6 children, and Asians have 2 – 2.7 children, people in the Middle East and North Africa have 2.6 – 3 children, and Sub-Saharan Africans have 4.5 – 5.6 children.

Although Muslim numbers will rise quickly in Africa and the Middle East, Pew found, the Muslim population will grow relative to the overall population in every region of the globe except Latin America and the Caribbean, where relatively few Muslims live.

By James Haleavy

Jeff Koons’ retrospective in Paris – Review

Jeff Koons
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Jeff Koons’ retrospective exhibition: expectation, contrast and disappointment

After having been exhibited in New York City, “Jeff Koons: A Retrospective” is now in the Centre Pompidou in Paris until April 27, 2015. Jeff Koons is one of the most controversial contemporary artists. This retrospective, with Scott Rothkopf as exhibition curator and Bernard Blistène as curator of the Paris show, comprehensively presents Koons’ work at various stages of his 35-year career. Located in the influential contemporary art institution in Paris, alongside Atelier Brancusi and the remarkable retrospective of Marcel Duchamp, could Koons’ exhibition and artworks live up to the high expectations?

Rabbit and the Inflatables

Koons’ initial inflatable work, “Inflatable Flower and Bunny,” displayed at the entrance of the exhibition was echoed by the silvery “Rabbit” one third of the way in. The two share similar forms, but the features of the plastic toy disappeared in “Rabbit’s” smooth and reflective surface. “Rabbit” was described in the caption next to the artwork as “one of Jeff Koons’ most iconic works,” — although such importance is not signified with any special treatment of its display in the exhibition. On the other hand, it recalls Bracusi’s refined shiny bird sculpture, “Leda” (1926), which was created decades before the Koons work. While the former’s perfect surface relates to the infinite and indefinable, Koons’ subject matter does not depart far from popular culture and Pop Art aesthetics, despite the change of materials.

“Inflatable Flower and Bunny”, 1979
“Inflatable Flower and Bunny,” 1979
“Rabbit”, 1986
“Rabbit,” 1986


Not far from the rather subtle “Rabbit” stands the attention-seeking “Ballon Dog.” A magenta version of the 3-meter orange painted stainless steel “Balloon Dog” sold for $58.4 million last year, a record price for a living artist. This oversized “Balloon Dog” is placed in the center of the exhibition section of the “Celebration” series, surrounded by the large blue “Moon” and red “Hanging Heart.” However, there does not seem to be any dialogue among the works except for reflecting one another from their surfaces. From “Rabbit” to “Balloon Dog” — both iconic — the link is obviously Koons’ gesture of “exaggerating the aura of cheap, ordinary things, aggrandising them into works of art in increasingly expensive materials.” These point us to the ready-mades of Duchamp. While Duchamp’s “Fountain” was an act of anti-market and anti-authorship, Koons has diverted to commodification of art in capitalist art market.

“Moon”, 1995-2000, reflecting “Balloon Dog” and the exhibition hall
“Moon,” 1995-2000, reflecting “Balloon Dog” and the exhibition hall
“Hanging Heart” displayed side by side with “Moon”
“Hanging Heart” displayed side by side with “Moon”
Jeff Koons' Retrospective in Centre Pompidou, Paris with the iconic "Balloon Dog", 1994-2000
Jeff Koons’ retrospective in Centre Pompidou, Paris with the iconic “Balloon Dog,” 1994-2000

Gazing ball

This latest series of Koons’ in the last part of the exhibition shows classical sculptures replicated in plaster, each with a sharp blue balloon-like sphere. The classical beauty of the sculptures is placed against representation of American popular culture by the modern blue mirror balls which come from suburban ornaments in his home state of Pennsylvania. Koons is trying to address the future decorative nature of artworks. The plain and dull texture of the plaster is contrasted by the shiny reflective gazing balls which catch viewers into the artwork. However, when one searches to find something deeper out of such contract and reflection, one can still only find the externalized image of oneself. There is then a sense of narcissism, not something surprising from Koons’ art. David Zwirner, the art dealer for Koons, quoted Koons saying that, “If you’re critical, you’re already out of the game.” One critique replied to this, “His narcissism makes him incapable of self-editing.” Indeed, it seems not obvious how the choice of each sculpture model could give either a different message or a higher artistic value, except for the selling of one more piece of decoration. In this sense, it might be painful to claim them as descendants from Duchamp’s ready-mades in which the act of choosing and the choice of the objects is the notion.

“Gazing Ball [Farnese Hercules]”, 2013
“Gazing Ball [Farnese Hercules],” 2013
“Gazing Ball [Ariadne]”, 2013
“Gazing Ball [Ariadne],” 2013

Viewing these three major iconic series from Jeff Koons three and a half decades of work, the progression of time does not generate any greater surprise or insights from Koons’ works. The New Yorker’s Peter Schjeldahl, reviewing the Whitney show, called Koons “the signal artist of today’s world,” claiming that, “If you don’t like that, take it up with the world.” In this regard of generalizing and externalizing his artworks to the responsibility of the contemporary world, it might seem that if one is disappointed by the exhibition, such disappointment should be directed to the wider world. However, it is doubtful that this is the case when we just turn our eyes to Duchamp or Brancusi next door, whose art is still giving much profound meaning to our world besides money and market.

By Rickovia Leung

More Americans favor gun rights over gun control for first time

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Americans’ opinions on gun rights have flipped. For the first time, more Americans value gun owners’ rights than they do gun control.

According to Pew research, the percentage of Americans who thought gun rights were more important was only 29-34 percent during the 90s. In the 00s, that number shot up and down between the 32 and 45 percent. Around the turn of the current decade, the numbers were roughly even for several years, but in December 2014 the number of Americans who value gun rights surpassed those who prefer gun control for the first time. The numbers are currently 52 percent and 46 percent.

gun rights
Pew chart: “% saying it is more important to…”

Another of Pew’s findings was that the percentage of Americans who say that they feel safer with a gun in the home has risen even more steadily. Thirty-five percent said they felt safer in ’00. Today, 63 percent say they feel safer.

Pew suggested two reasons that might be behind the change in favor of gun owners’ rights: Republicans have pushed for gun rights during the Obama years, they noted, but also, more Americans perceive that crime is on the rise today than they did decades ago.

But, Pew noted, unlike previous decades when more Americans believed high crime should be dealt with by strictening gun control laws, today more American’s believe crime should be dealt with by increasing gun ownership.

The shift in favor of gun rights is across the board with regards to perceptions of crime. More American’s who believe crime is rising favor more gun ownership, but so do American’s who believe crime is the same or decreasing, Pew found.

By James Haleavy

HIV outbreak in Indiana reaches 130

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The outbreak of HIV in southern Indiana’s Scott County has affected 130 people, according to the region’s health officials, bringing the number up by 24 since last week. One hundred twenty cases are now confirmed in addition to 10 preliminary positives.

“We have seen a significant increase in the number of HIV cases reported this week, but we believe that is because we have been able to offer more testing with the help of additional staff from the CDC,” State Health Commissioner Jerome Adams said.

“This sharp increase in the number of HIV-positive cases demonstrates just how critical it is that we are able to locate and test people who have been exposed so that they can avoid spreading it to others and get medical treatment.”

Health authorities have identified the cause of the outbreak in drug users sharing needles.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are working in the region at the reuest of the Indiana State Department to help local authorities investigate the outbreak. The CDC is providing help testing and contacting people who potentially have been exposed to the disease.

The Scott County Health Department this week began a mobile needle exchange. The new service, as well as the “One-Stop Shop” created by executive order last month, will compliment the Scott County’s needle exchange program.

By Cheryl Bretton

Lit-rock now

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Since the Blair-raped turn of the millennium, British music has seemed like it’s in a seamless, anonymous, tepid, regurgitated stream. That the music produced were bad would be something to talk about, but the rise of Tech, social networking and old-fashioned politeness have coincided with music that across the board is all right, not bad, take it or leave it. Long gone are the media-created hypes of Britpop, rave, punk or Beatlemania, and all their cross-bred cousins.

The old school media rivers have turned into an endless digital delta. Where once David Bowie putting his arm round Mick Ronson would electrify staff rooms and playgrounds the following day, now thirty likes under a funny meme will suffice (at least they’re your friends and they love you, right?) or a garbage right-wing politician gaffs again and gets a few hundred thousand YouTube hits.

Clocks Go Forward album coverClocks Go Forward album coverClocks Go Forward album coverClocks Go Forward album cover
Clocks Go Forward album cover

There is another, subtle, powerful movement at work though. There is a strain of literate, socially conscious, super-aware creatives who are as far away from Liam Gallagher or Jay Z’s money and celebrity-worshipping ethos as it’s possible to get. You could call it the postmodern left, or you could realise that it’s decency and depth that unites them, as they are no less in thrall to classic pop magic and showmanship as Oasis or the Bling d-evolution. There’s also nothing elitist about them, as listening to the songs themselves will bear out.
The “forefathers” of these artists might be identified as Nick Cave or Luke Haines of The Auteurs, to name but two – songwriters who cherish the nuanced word as much as the perfectly deployed bass riff. The Godfather of Lit Rock as is now though is Ed Harcourt, gently laying multi-layered music over coruscating wordplay solo for over fifteen years, and inspiring others through his reversion to the rules of nature while keeping common decency intact. Often with a pocket watch and in tails.

James Cook
James Cook

These are people who love tunes, rock mayhem, and the crowd togetherness that is the hallmark of great music. Ageism and locationism have been disregarded, thanks to the mighty, gently tyrannical hand of Silicon Valley. Following Harcourt’s lead come the brilliantly wry Everything Everything, combining perfect British pop tunesmithery with oblique lyrics conjured up to keep you guessing for weeks, without being able to shake the tune you heard them set to. Dapper man-about-town, regular on The Mighty Boosh and Michael Palin lookalike James Cook brings his own brand of knowing razzle-dazzle juxtaposed with Joe Strummer’s social ire to the dancefloor.

Record labels Seraglio Point Productions (soon to release Alphabet Saints, Scalaland and Catwalk mainman and legendary writer Chris Roberts’ new record, Clocks Go Forwards “A Generation of Rain”) and Rocket Girl have unknowingly brought these artists together, not under any particular plan other than a tenuous link between London and Chichester. The Cure producer Dave M. Allen’s The Magic Sponge, Holland’s De Staadt, experimental musician Ettuspadix and even Thomas Truax and Ariel Pink can find themselves in good company, copious booze and deep thought finding themselves as comfortable alongside sex, drugs and rock n’ roll as at a TED lecture. Ex-Boo Radley songwriter Martin Carr, and Chi’s own Fonsleberry and The Wolseys also deserve a place at the table.

As much as any other just-bubbling-beneath-the-surface collective, this Lit Rock set knows something is up, and something is to be done about it. Social networking has funnily enough had the effect of making everyone better writers, and aren’t we all writers now. Well, not really, and this lot are showing the world how it should be done. Reading and listening are as important as screwing and fighting, and a lot closer than most like to admit.

By Sean Bw Parker

Bush legacy with an Obama spin

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U.S. sponsored Saudi slaughter ensues in Yemen, but “not a peep from the pope,” as Celente likes to say. The Wall Street Journal reported Saturday that the U.S. is in the processes of expanding its involvement in the Saudi Arabian effort to oust Iran-backed rebels in Yemen.

The U.S. military is aiding the Saudis by way of searching ships en route to Yemen coming from Iran, in an effort to curtail the supply of arms to the Shiite rebels. The rebel Houthi forces, who destabilized the government and took control of the country in February of this year, blame Saudi Arabia for attacks resultant in 648 civilian casualties since the beginning of the Saudi engagement with the rebels.

Yesterday, Iran called for the installation of a new Yemeni government, which is certain to increase tensions with Saudi Arabia. The U.S. continues to council the King on how to deal with the pro-Iranian Houthi faction in an attempt to regain stability by reinstating Western-backed president, Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi. The weird part of this story is that it is no secret that Iran and the U.S. are in bed together in regards to the containment of the Islamic State (IS). U.S. Iranian relations were further strengthened with last week’s nuclear deal, or in other words, Obama’s final swan song in his futile effort to create a lasting legacy as opposed to more global instability.

Nearly 12 years have past since the Bush administration invaded Iraq, toppling Saddam Hussein’s regime, and miring the U.S. in eight years of bloody conflict, but the Bush legacy lives on. Since president Barack Obama assumed office in 2009, not much has changed in regards to U.S. foreign policy, and in all reality, global instability is even worse than it was during the Bush years.

From the Syrian slump into civil war and the rise of the IS, to Libya, the Ukrainian crisis, and now Yemen, the Obama administration is scraping up quite a track record. The Yazidis trapped on the mountain were in trouble, and the U.S. sent in “military advisors”; now the Saudi’s need a hand, and the approval stamp from the U.S. to continue murdering civilians in Yemen. The U.S. supports Iranian foreign policy in one part of the world, while containing it in another, and yes, things are certain to get weirder and weirder. It seems as though the Obama administration has given the Bush legacy the “change” we all voted for in 2009.

Analysis by Joseph Siess

China and Dalai Lama vie for who selects reincarnation of Dalai Lama

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Tibet’s spiritual leader the Dalai Lama made a speech in Japan this week in which he said that he expects to finalize his decision in 2025 about who his reincarnated successor will be. The Dalai Lama will be 90 years old at that time. However, China has reiterated its claim that the government has the sole only authority to choose the reincarnation of the Dalai Lama.

The Dalai Lama has lived in exile from Tibet since 1959 when he escaped the country in fear of his life, nine years after China conquered the territory. The Dalai Lama is considered a criminal terrorist and separatist Chinese authorities.

The Dalai Lama, who has been in Japan since early this month, said in an interview with Japanese news Asahi Shimbun that he will participate in further discussion before finalizing his decision. He also said that he will keep close watch on China’s reaction to his offers to resume talks.

Read more: Chinese charge government officials for being part of “illegal underground Tibetan independence organization”

The officially atheist Chinese government last month reiterated its claim, however, that the government has the sole responsibility to decide the Dalai Lama’s successor, criticizing the Dalai Lama for not “showing a serious or respectful attitude on the issue.”

Both parties have already picked contrary reincarnations of the Panchen Lama, the “second holiest” monk in Tibetan Buddhism. In 1995, the Dalai Lama chose a 6-year-old Tibetan boy as the reincarnation, while the Chinese government chose a different child. The choice of the Dalai Lama and his family have not been seen since, although the Chinese government later admitted that it was holding the Dalai Lama’s choice in “protective custody” in Beijing at the request of his parents.

Read more: Tibetan protester dies of torture after being released on “medical parole”


The choice of the Chinese government was allowed to spend only a few days in Tibet and was brought up in Beijing.


140th self immolation against Chinese rule of Tibet

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A Tibetan nun self immolated April 8, becoming the 140th known self immolation in protest of Chinese rule over the Himalayan region.

The nun, Yeshi Kandro, who was in her 40s, was known to be a serious practitioner of meditation and deeply concerned with Tibetan issues, according to sources of International Campaign for Tibet. Yeshi may have participated in peaceful protests in Tibet in 2008.

Yeshi was from Draggo, Kardze, and she attended Nganggang monastery in the region.

On April 8 she set went to a location near the monastery and the police station in Kardze town. She called for the long life of the Dalai Lama, for the Dalai Lama’s return to Tibet, and for the freedom of Tibet, and self immolated.

Read more: Tibetan protester dies of torture after being released on “medical parole”

Police extinguished the flame, which was reported to have been particularly intense, with fire extinguishers, and took the woman’s body away.

Yeshi is the 140th person known to have self immolated in protest of Chinese rule over Tibet, and the 138th person to have done so within Tibet. She is the second woman to have self immolated for this cause in 2015.

Read more: Chinese charge government officials for being part of “illegal underground Tibetan independence organization”