Arab Spring flares up | 

Flickr, Jonathan Rashad

Egypt's Tahrir Square, at the start of the uprising

The popular uprising across the Middle East has intensified this week with the eruption of violence in Egypt and the resignation of Yemen’s president President Ali Abdullah Saleh.

As the Washington Post reports, the level of violence in Egypt has reached levels unseen since the original protests which nine months ago forced President Hosni Mubarak out of office. Protesters are demonstrating against what they see as the military’s attempt to hold on to power. So far, 38 people have been reported killed and the UN has condemned the interim government’s response.

Meanwhile, Time magazine says, the UN has announced that Yemen’s President Saleh has agreed to step down if he is allowed to flee to Saudi Arabia and avoid prosecution.

In Syria, the government has continued to crack down on protesters with a death toll so far estimated at 3,500. As Reuters reports, many believe Syria’s violent response to the popular uprising could foment widespread bloodshed and violence for the entire region.

The only bright spot right now is Tunisia, where the Arab Spring started, sparked by the suicide of a fruit seller long abused by the authorities. As the AP reports, Tunisia’s first fairly elected political assembly went to work this week:

Tunisia’s newly elected assembly held its inaugural meeting Tuesday, and begin the yearlong process of shaping the constitution and the democratic future of the country that sparked the Arab Spring uprisings.

And it didn’t take long for the legislators to feel one result of free speech: hundreds of people protested outside Parliament, demanding everything from women’s rights and a crackdown on security forces to limits on Qatar’s influence over Tunisia’s affairs.

Yeah, democracy is messy. Whether the rest of the Middle East and north Africa follows Tunisia’s promising lead remains in question.

Protests continue in Egypt, Yemen while Algeria throws wheat at the fire | 

Protests calling for political change in Egypt and Yemen appear to be gaining momentum, sparked by the successful people’s revolt in Tunisia.

Those two countries appear to be the main hotspots right now, though this trend of uprisings is much more widespread. GlobalPost has a nice (but long) summary of the “region in upheaval.”

A somewhat oddly headlined story in the New York Times — Egyptian Markets Fall as Protests Gather Support — actually describes much more of what’s going on in Egypt than its impact on the market. For example, the famed Egyptian Nobel Peace Prize winner (and nuclear arms inspector) Mohamed ElBaradei has publicly supported the protests and urged Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak to step down.

Meanwhile, similar protests are going on as well in Yemen while the Tunisian spark appears to have been snuffed out in Algeria for the moment anyway, by the Algerian government buying a huge amount of wheat.

Huh? It’s about food? You probably thought it was about freedom and democracy. Well, it is. Many say the bulk of the protests are really being fueled by the bad economy and rising food prices. I guess Algeria can test that theory. It may be able to buy some quiet time with these wheat purchases, but we’ll see if that quells resentment built upon a long history of political repression.