Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

IRC Sofia wishes all its readers a Merry Christmas and a very happy, healthy, safe and prosperous 2016!


New Media

Beset by Online Surveillance and Content Filtering, Netizens Fight On. Reporters Without Borders. March 12, 2012.

The last reprot highlighted the fact that the Internet and social networks have been conclusively established as tools for protest, campaigning and circulating information, and as vehicles for freedom. In the months that followed, repressive regimes responded with tougher measures to what they regarded as unacceptable attempts to “destabilize” their authority. In 2011, netizens were at the heart of the political changes in the Arab world and elsewhere. They tried to resist the imposition of a news and information blackout but paid a high price.At the same time, supposedly democratic countries continued to set a bad example by yielding to the temptation to prioritize security over other concerns and by adopting disproportionate measures to protect copyright. Internet users in “free” countries have learned to react in order to protect what they have won. More than ever before, online freedom of expression is now a major foreign and domestic policy issue, according to the report.

State of the New Media 2012. Project for Excellence in Journalism. March 19, 2012.

Mobile devices are adding to people’s consumption of news, strengthening the lure of traditional news brands and providing a boost to long-form journalism, according to the Project for Excellence in Journalism’s ninth annual report on the health of American journalism. [Note: contains copyrighted material].

U.S. Elections: Opinion Polls

The Gender Gap: Three Decades Old, as Wide as Ever. Pew Research Center for the People & the Press. March 29, 2012.

According to the Pew Research Center’s most recent national survey, conducted March 7-11,  Barack Obama’s advantages among women voters over his GOP rivals are striking, with women favoring Obama over Mitt Romney by 20 points and over Rick Santorum by 26 points. When it comes to the political parties, 51% of women identify with the Democrats compared to 42% of men. [Note: contains copyrighted material].


GOP Race Is Rallying Democrats: Campaign Continues to Hurt GOP More Than It Helps. Pew Research Center for the People & the Press. March 5, 2012.

The Republican nomination battle is rallying Democrats behind Barack Obama. Currently, 49% of Democrats say that as they learn more about the GOP candidates, their impression of Obama is getting better. Just 36% of Democrats expressed this view in December, before the Republican primaries began. [Note: contains copyrighted material].

Women’s Month

WOMEN’S ECONOMIC OPPORTUNITY 2012: A GLOBAL INDEX AND RANKING. Economist Intelligence Unit. March 2012.

Women are the world’s greatest undeveloped source of labour: nearly one-half of working-age women are not currently active in the formal global economy. By working disproportionately in unpaid labour, particularly in developing countries, women traditionally have had less access than men to income and resources. Thus, they are often less productive than men, which holds back the overall economy. As governments worldwide seek short- and long-term fixes to waning economic performance, expanding opportunities for the 1.5bn women not employed in the formal sector will take on even greater importance. But simply increasing the number of working women will not be enough. The poorest regions of the world have among the highest levels of female labour force participation, and poverty in those regions persists. Rather, to realise greater returns from female economic activity, the legal, social, financial and educational barriers hindering women’s productivity need to be removed, according to the report. [Note: contains copyrighted material].


ENTERPRISING WOMEN, THRIVING SOCIETIES. International Information Program, U.S. Department of State. March 2012.

This issue of eJournal USA encourages women to pursue their entrepreneurial ambitions. It cites the experiences of businesswomen around the world and features successful women entrepreneurs who can serve as role models. It also identifies barriers and best practices for overcoming them.


MAKING THEIR MARK: BLACK WOMEN LEADERS. International Information Program, U.S. Department of State. February 2012.

 The eJournal profiles African-American women of the 20th and 21st centuries who have made significant contributions to many spheres of American life. It also offers insights into how earlier generations of African-American women serve as touchstones for the present generation. The list of women featured here, while not comprehensive, is wide-ranging. It includes women who have devoted their talents and energies to business, civil rights, politics, academia and mass media. Each in her way has affirmed the American Dream not only for African Americans, but for women and men of all ethnicities.



Key Official US and IAEA Statements About Iran’s Nuclear Programs. Center for Strategic & International Studies. Anthony H. Cordesman. February 2, 2012.

There is a great deal of speculation about Iran’s nuclear programs that do not list sources or reflect the views of the U.S. intelligence community. According to the author, it is worth examining what top U.S. intelligence official have said during the last few years, and the details of the IAEA report published in November 2011, one that clearly reflected official inputs from the U.S. and a number of European intelligence services. [Note: contains copyrighted material].

Iran’s Influence in the Americas. Center for Strategic & International Studies. Stephen Johnson. February 27, 2012.

Through trade, assistance, and bilateral cooperation, the nations of the Americas are more globally connected than ever before. Not just to former colonial powers, but to such faraway places as Afghanistan, China, India, Russia, and Singapore. In 2007, Colombian police were training Afghan counterparts. China’s commerce with Latin America and the Caribbean has grown from about $12 billion in 2000 to some $176.8 billion in 2010. India’s trade is on track to double from $23 billion in 2010 to $50 billion in 2014. Russia has more extensive commercial and political ties in the hemisphere than it did during the Cold War. And Singapore is now Venezuela’s fifth-largest trading partner. Yet, another foreign power has made inroads and is provoking worries that for now are larger than its actual impact. It is the Islamic Republic of Iran. [Note: contains copyrighted material].

Turkey and the Bomb. Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Sinan Ulgen. February 15, 2012.

Though most states that want a nuclear weapon can get one through determined effort, the fact remains that most choose not to proliferate. Turkey is no exception. Not even the prospect of a nuclear-armed Iran is likely to push Ankara to develop its own nuclear weapons. The only circumstance where such a scenario would acquire a degree of likelihood is a breakdown in Turkey’s security relationship with the United States, by the author. [Note: contains copyrighted material].

Public Takes Tough Line on Iran’s Nuclear Program: Support for Obama’s Afghan Troop Pullout. Pew Research Center for the People & the Press. February 15, 2012.

Nearly six-in-ten (58%) of Americans say it is important to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons, even if it means taking military action. Just 30% say it is more important to avoid a military conflict with Iran. When it comes to the possibility that Israel may soon attack Iran’s nuclear facilities, as has been reported in news stories, 51% say the U.S. should remain neutral. But for those saying the U.S. should take a position, 39% believe it should support an Israeli attack compared to 5% who say it should oppose such action. [Note: contains copyrighted material].


Obama: U.S. Commitment to South Korea “Will Never Waver”.  By Stephen Kaufman, DOS Staff Writer | 13 October 2011

 Washington — President Obama reaffirmed the strong alliance between the United States and South Korea and said both countries are “entirely united” in their efforts to convince North Korea to abandon its nuclear weapons program. (…)

“The commitment of the United States to the defense and security of the Republic of Korea will never waver. And as we have for decades, the United States will maintain our strong presence in the Asia-Pacific, which is a foundation for security and prosperity in Asia in the 21st century,” Obama said.

The president said North Korea “continues to pose a direct threat to the security of both our nations,” and that its leadership faces a clear choice.

Congress Approves U.S.-Korea Free-Trade Agreement. DOS IIP Digital

The U.S. Congress overwhelmingly approves a long-delayed free-trade agreement with South Korea that is expected to create tens of thousands of jobs and expand economic growth for the two trading partners. (…)The U.S.-Korea Free Trade Agreement was signed June 30, 2007, during the administration of President George W. Bush. Action was delayed on the trade measure as Congress raised concerns about the impact of the trade accords on American workers and the potential loss of jobs overseas. It is the largest pact of its kind for the United States since the 1994 North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).

Achievements, Celebration and Homework: South Korean President Lee Myung-bak’s State Visit to the United States. Brookings Institution. Sang Yoon Ma. October 2011.

As South Korean President Lee Myung-bak begins his state visit to the United States, Sang-Yoon Ma notes that the U.S. and Republic of Korea have much to celebrate, but that there is also room for improvement in the relationship. Ma suggests that one area of improvement could be enhancing civil society interaction between the two democracies.