The Lafayette Campaign is a masterfully crafted satirical page turner. In this cyber thriller, our hero “Frank,” a quirky and eccentric “cyber geek” will keep you smiling and at times laughing out loud when he tries to figure out who is manipulating the election polls, while attempting to write a novel about his previous adventures.

Andrew Updegrove does a brilliant job of creating likeable characters one can relate to, while weaving a gripping story with constant twists and turns you never see coming. The story moves at a very fast pace, but it’s easy to follow, enjoyable and impossible to put down.

This is one the best and most entertaining books I have read this year, and I would highly recommend it not only to “cyber geeks” and anyone interested in cyber security issues, but also to anyone with any interest in politics, elections, or anyone who is simply looking to read a fun yet technically accurate book with unforgettable characters you can’t stop thinking about long after you have finished the novel.

I loved how Andrew Updegrove was able to make such a technical subject so fun and entertaining, and can’t wait for “Frank’s” next adventure!

I was provided with a copy of this novel for review.

As a criminal defense lawyer with a serious interest in the human rights situation in the Middle East I found "As the Dust Devils Danced" a necessary, enticing and informative read.

The author Jeffrey Crowther gives the reader an in depth insider view of the lengthy and difficult process of developing a sustainable justice system in the Uruzgar Region of Afghanistan.

In my opinion one of the most fascinating aspects of this book is the detailed discussion about the opium trade in Afghanistan and its role and integration within the Justice System. It appears everyone of consequence in Afghanistan has a hand in the opium trade and controlling the opium trade brings power, prestige and money, all things necessary when developing a sustainable justice system in a country with verity of cultural tribes competing for power.

I also enjoyed reading about the integration of Rule of Law, Sharia and the Afghan culture in the development of the Justice system.

What I would have enjoyed reading about a bit further would have been any role played by the Afghan women within the justice system, sadly the lack of this discussion may have more to do with the fact tha twomen currently have very little if any role within the Afghan Justice system.

Overall an informative must read for anyone interested in the human rights issues in the Middle East especially with a special interest in Afghanistan.

On Tuesday August 2nd 2016 The Islamic Regime in Iran executed more then 20 Kurdish activists of Sunni decent. While all these activists were “convicted” of allegedly committing terrorism related offences, there is serious doubt and concern about the lack of both due process and rule of law which eventually led to these mass executions.

The Islamic Regime in Iran is known for their lack of due process especially with respect to political prisoners. Often political prisoners are subjected to 10 minute mock trials, behind closed doors and without a jury, and more often then not without access to a lawyer.

The use of forced confessions obtained under torture is widespread and it’s often the only piece of “evidence” used to convict political prisoners of crimes they have not committed. The Islamic Regime in Iran is one of the world’s top executioners with at least 230 people having been executed so far this year. It is crucial to note that the number of actual executions might be much higher as many executions are also carried out behind the closed doors of prisons and are not reported.

While many of those executed are political prisoners who have not had a fair trial, the Regime in Iran does not discriminate when it comes to executions. Amnesty International recently reported the execution of a homosexual juvenile offender Hassan Afshar (19) who was convicted of “forced male to male anal intercourse.” By executing juvenile offenders the Islamic Regime in Iran has show that they have zero regard or respect for international conventions protecting the rights of juvenile offenders.

Canada must condemn the recent wave of political and non-political executions and hold the Islamic Regime in Iran accountable for their systematic lack of due process and legal procedure for detainees who have been charged with both political and non political offences.

Canada cannot turn a blind eye to the Islamic Regime’s serious and systematic human rights violations while considering renewing its political relationship with the Regime, until and unless the issues of human rights and mass executions are properly addressed.

Sayeh Hassan is an Iranian-Canadian lawyer, blogger and pro-democracy activists

“The Sacred Calling” is a fascinating collection of essays tracing the history of women in the rabbinate, focusing on both their personal and professional lives. The book is divided into seven (7) broad sections including “Those Who Came Before Us”, “Reform Ordination of Women”, “Ripple Effects: The Impact of Ordaining Women”, “Women Rabbis and Feminism”, “Jewish Life”, “Congregational Culture and Community Life” and finally “image”. Each section contains numerous essays dealing with different aspects of each topic.

History of women in the rabbinate is fascinating, not unlike the history of any other field where women pioneers have paved the way for the future generation. I enjoyed learning about the very first women who were ordained, the challenges they faced and how they overcame them.

One of my favorite quotes from the book states:

"Women’s stories are particularly vulnerable since, until recently, we were not the keepers of these stories. What will happen to our stories, the stories of women breaking through the barriers at the admissions office of HUC-JIR, coping with an institution built for only male students, professors who were not used to women students, and the barriers of congregations who didn’t want women rabbis as their leaders, once we, who experienced these things, pass from the world?" (Who Controls the Narrative? P. 7)

What makes this book really special is not the fact that it tells the story of these women, but that the story is told by some of the very same women who lived through the challenges of becoming rabbi’s in a male oriented religious structure. We hear firsthand from these women the challenges they faced and how they persevered.

I particularly enjoyed the essay “Women Rabbis in Israel” which dealt with professional experiences unique to female clergy, and the way these women confronted such experiences including overt sexism with humor, confidence and zeal.

This book is a must read not only for those in the Jewish faith, but for anyone interested in learning about how historically marginalized groups, challenges they faced and how they managed to overcome the barriers and succeed.

Iran Star Toronto has published a paid add for "Sighe" temporary marriage also known as islamic prostitution in their paper. The Regime in Iran has used "sighe" or temporary marriages which can be as short as an hour to legalize prostituion and further marginalize women who have no other way of making an income. Now the Islamic Regime is attempting to bring the practice of "sighe" to Canada. This is totally unacceptable and goes against all of our Canadian Values.

Toko Loshe’s novel Shades of Africa is a riveting page turner about growing up in South Africa during the Apartheid. The story is told through the lenses of a young girl growing up in a family with a violent father and a passive mother, in the background of the violence and horror of the South African apartheid.

What I loved about this novel was the seamless parallel story lines between the personal and political. While Shades of Africa sets out an accurate and heartbreaking account of the Apartheid, that is not the only focus of the book. The novel discusses in a very frank manner domestic violence and abuse of women and children during that time.

The story focuses on a young girl Shirley who grows up in a family with an alcoholic and abusive father who takes no issue with violently beating his wife and children on a regular basis. Unfortunately Shirley’s mother is no protection against the abuse, in fact she is a passive woman who often gives up on her own needs and wants and goes along to get along. It’s quite tragic that Shirley grows up to end up in a similar situation as her mother, in a violent abusive relationship and children that she must protect.

One of the most intriguing things about this novel is the fact that a lot of the issues in the books are still very much current and relatable. While the Apartheid in South Africa has ended there is still so much violence and discrimination going on in many countries around the world, where dictatorships continue to persecute religious and ethnic minorities. As well the domestic violence of women and children are still prevalent in many countries in the world.

I highly recommend this book to anyone who is interested in the South African Apartheid or general issues of oppression of ethnic or religious minorities.

Today I attended the Turkish “Anatolia” Festival at Yonge and Dundas Square in Toronto, expecting a wonderful experience filled with Turkish culture, art, food and music. I had been looking forward to this festival for weeks as I have a very special place in my heart for Turkey and its wonderful people, and couldn’t wait to get a taste of everything Turkey.

Unfortunately what I came across was anything BUT Turkish, but everything Islamic. One of the most noticeable things when I arrived was the fact that 90% of the women who were either selling tickets or were in the booths were covered from head to toe with the Islamic Hijab. Turkish women are some of the best dressed, beautiful and modern women in the world; however anyone attending this festival would have been left with the impression that Turkey has an Islamic dress code for women, as there were very few women who were not covered head to toe. What was more disturbing was the clothing booth selling Islamic Hijab outfits at very discounted prices, while there was not a single booth selling or advertising either Turkish modern clothes or the gorgeous and colorful traditional outfits worn by women while performing traditional dances.

In terms of music the major featured band was a NON-Turkish group called Dean-Squad who are known for their Islamic music. I have nothing against this band and had not heard of them prior to the Turkish festival; however I was left very confused about why a Turkish Festival organized by the cultural branch of the Turkish Embassy would not feature a Turkish band for their festival… While I did not have an opportunity to watch Dean Squad’s performance, I did have a chance to watch another live performance of a Turkish groups who seemed to be chanting the Arabic word “Allah,Allah” which means God, instead of singing anything in Turkish.

Other areas of concern were the displaying of the Ottoman Empire Flag beside the Turkish red moon crescent and star flag. One of the major differences between the Ottoman Flag and the Turkish Flag is the representation of the “Caliphate” the Supreme religious leaders of an Islamic State within the Ottoman Flag. The Ottoman Flag represents the Caliphate in green colors and the Sultanate in red colors. While the Ottoman Flag represents Islam as much as the Ottoman Sultans, the current Turkish Flag is secular and does not represent Islam. For the first time in my life I attended a Turkish event where the Ottoman Flag was displayed along with the Turkish Flag no doubt to represent Recep Erdogan’s strong Islamic affiliation.

I was sad to see there was not even a single picture of Mustafa Kemal ATATURK, the founder of Republic of Turkey who modernized Turkey and created a secular government. Ataturk is a well loved and respected figure in Turkey; in fact his surname Ataturk means “the Father of Turks”. The Islamic Government of Erdogan has done everything in its power to reverse everything Ataturk did to secularize and modernize Turkey, however I can’t see the people of Turkey allowing Erdogan to get away with that.

The festival was not all bad as I had a chance to meet a wonderful Turkish woman who hand makes beautiful soaps, and had a chance to speak to two beautiful and talented ladies who had come from Turkey to display their art first in the Montreal Jazz festival and then in the Turkish Festival in Toronto.

Unfortunately apart from those three wonderful ladies there was nothing Turkish about this so called Turkish festival. Turkish art, music, cinema, clothes and literature was all missing, however Islamic clothes, books and culture were plentiful.

After waiting for weeks to attend this Turkish festival I left disappointed, confused and mostly sad for Turkey and its wonderful people who are being represented by an Islamic Extremist Government who is doing everything it can to change a secular and modern country into an Islamic Dictatorship. While disappointed I also have great faith and hope in the people of Turkey, the descendants of Ataturk who will not allow Erdogan’s dictatorship to destroy their country.

Long Live a free and secular Turkey

I am so saddened to see the ever increasing number of suicide bombings in Turkey, a country that has always been very close to my heart. No doubt Erdogan's Islamic extremism, the persecution of Kurdish minority and Erdogan’s support for ISIS has led to the increase in terrorism killing innocent people and destroying Turkey’s tourism industry. Such a shame...

10 dead after explosions at Turkey's largest airport, Istanbul Ataturk: Media reports

This year once again Islamic extremist groups and organizations who support the brutal and systematic human rights violations by the Islamic Regime in Iran and who openly call for the destruction of Israel will be holding another Al-Quds “Hate Rally” in front of the U.S. Consulate in Toronto on July 2nd 2016.

International Al-Quds day was founded by Ruholla Khomeini, the barbarous Islamic Dictator who high jacked the Iranian revolution of 1979 and was responsible for the arrest, torture and summary execution of thousands of political dissidents.

Khomeini’s Islamic Regime continues to reign terror on its own people, sponsor terrorist organizations such as Hamas and Hezbollah and has been trying for years to acquire nuclear weapons. Not surprisingly Islamic extremists and supporters of terrorist organizations such as Hamas and Hezbollah and people who have zero regard for human rights and dignity rally on Al-Quds day every year by holding up pictures of Khomeini and flags of outlawed terrorist organizations.

They go on to praise the Islamic dictator Khomeini who is responsible for torture and murder of thousands of Iranians while they openly call for the destruction of Israel. Recently it was brought to my attention that Independent Jewish Voice, an organization that claims to be “human rights organization” has been actively participating in Al-Quds Day for the past several years and also had a speaker at the Memorial of Khomeini in May of this year.

I am very disappointed to see a group that recognizes itself as a human rights group turn a blind eye to the plight of millions of Iranian people suffering under the current Islamic Dictatorship, while praising Khomeini the founder of that dictatorship.

I call on all human rights and pro-democracy organizations and activists to join together and say No To Al-Quds Hate Rally in Toronto and anywhere else in Canada. I urge you to stand with the people of Iran in their fight for a democratic and secular Iran, rather than standing with the dictators that are responsible for the oppression of millions of Iranians.

Sayeh Hassan is an Iranian-Canadian lawyer, blogger and pro-democracy activists

Today is the International Day to Support Iranian Political Prisoners. It was 7 years ago today that Neda Aghasoltan, a beautiful young woman was shot to death and murdered by Islamic Regime Agents for participating in a peaceful protest.

Unfortunately in the last 7 years things in Iran have become worse not better and the brutal prisons in Iran are still full with political prisoners. Today gives us an opportunity to stand in solidarity with all Iranian Political Prisoners and demand their immediate and unconditional freedom. The Islamic Regime in Iran must be held accountable for their brutal human rights violations.

Today we remember Jafar Azimzadeh, Zeynab Jaliliyan, Habibollah Latifi, Mohammad Sadiq Kaboudvand and so many others who have suffered at the hands of the Islamic Regime. We stand with them in their fight for a free and democratic Iran.

Book Review: Scapegoats-How Islamophobia Helps Our Enemies and Threatens Our Freedoms: By Arsalan Iftikhar

I found Arsalan Iftikhar's book "Scapegotas" both fascinating and challenging to read, as while at some parts I found myself nodding and agreeing with Mr. Iftikhar in other parts of the book I found myself shaking my head and coming up with counter arguments.

In his book Mr. Iftikhar makes some excellent points about scapegoating of minorities by the government and social/ethnic majorities both historically and currently in the United Stated and in other countries in the world. I found his discussion on historic scapegoating of African Americans, Japanese Americans and Jewish Americans and its comparison to today's scapegoating of the Muslim American Community compelling.

As written by Martin Luther King in 1963 and referenced by Mr. Iftikhar " Injustice anywhere is threat to justice everywhere." Mr. Iftikhar certainly does an excellent job of outlining the dangers of scapegoating minorities and its effects on society in large.

Where I found myself disagreeing with Mr. Iftikhar was the notion of "victim blaming" (at least that's the way I read it) of victims of Islamic Terrorism. A clear example is Mr. Iftikhar's clear reference to the terror rampage of Charlie Hebdo in January of 2015.

Mr. Iftikhar references the publication of "offensive" Muhammad Cartoon on a number of occasions including on page 108 where he states" But Charlie Hebdo's mean-spirited cartoons against the Muslim faith simply brought shrugs, or chuckles, from France's culturally savvy liberal champagne class." There are similar references throughout the book.

Based on what Mr. Iftikhar wrote about Charlie Hebdo terror it appears he almost believes the magazine brought the terror attack on themselves by publishing pictures of Muhammad which may have been offensive to some or even many Muslims worldwide.

While I found this aspect of his book somewhat controversial as a lawyer, blogger and a pro-democracy activist with a focus in the Middle East I found "Scapegoats" to be a worthwhile read dealing with both issues of Islalmophobia and the scapegoating of minorities both historically and currently and would recommend it to anyone with interests in these topics.

Sayeh Hassan is an Iranian-Canadian Lawyer, Blogger and Pro-democracy activist.

Homa Hoodfar an Iranian Canadian Professor at Concordia University has been arrested and imprisoned by the Islamic Regime in Iran.

According to news reports from CBC Ms. Hoodfar was in Iran conducting historical and ethnographic research on women’s role in the public.

Amanda Ghahremani, Ms. Hoodfar’s niece has told the CBC that Ms. Hoodfar was an academic conducting research; she was not a political activist and was in no way involved politically. Unfortunately Ms. Hoodfar is not the only Iranian Canadian arrested and imprisoned by the Islamic Regime in Iran. In 2003 Iranian Canadian photojournalist Zahra Kazemi was arrested and imprisoned in the notorious Evin Prison for taking pictures outside of the prison. She was brutally tortured and died as a result of torture.

Saeed Malekpour is another Iranian Canadian permanent resident who was arrested by the Islamic Regime in 2008 while visiting his ill father in Iran. He still remains imprisoned! While the Trudeau Government is seriously considering re-establishing diplomatic relations with the Islamic Regime in Iran, and re-opening their embassy in Ottawa, Islamic Regime continues to arrest and imprison Iranian-Canadian citizens and permanent residents.

If the Trudeau Government is determined to re-establish diplomatic relations at the very least it MUST implement serious checks and balances including making sure Human Rights issues including the rights of imprisoned Iranian Canadians are at the top of the discussion agenda.

Re-establishing diplomatic relations and re-opening the embassy before the establishment of serious pre-conditions, and without requiring the Islamic Regime to make any concessions, is nothing but turning a blind eye and giving the Regime the green light to continue with its systematic and wide spread human rights violations which are completely contrary to our fundamental Canadian values.

Sayeh Hassan is an Iranian Canadian lawyer, blogger and pro-democracy activist fights in to change the Regime in Iran.

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