This micro-analysis from Sally Buzbee, AP's Washington bureau chief:
On this day, bad news came before ceremony.
Little more than an hour before the public version of President Barack Obama's second inaugural, there was a sobering reminder of the risks that he and the nation face in the next four years: A U.S. official confirmed that a total of three Americans had been killed in a brutal hostage taking by Islamic militants in the north African country of Algeria. Seven other Americans working at the plant where the hostage standoff occurred were unharmed.
One of Obama's biggest first-term accomplishments, of course, was the killing of Osama bin Laden, the al-Qaida leader who spearheaded the 9-11 attacks. But another al-Qaida offshoot, this one in Muslim north Africa, has been causing growing worries in the past year. Those militants have made a run at controlling the country of Mali, beaten partly back by the French. And last week, they showed a new aggressiveness, attacking the plant full of American and other foreign workers on the edge of the Sahara in Algeria, next to Mali.
There's no question that the loosening of political repression in the Middle East the last few years — the Arab spring — has also let loose the chance of fewer dictators controlling local extremist movements. Africa may seem far away to most Americans but so was Afghanistan and the al-Qaida threat there before 9-11.
A sharp reminder that it's still a dangerous world, and Obama and the nation could face threats in the next four years that, right now, seem remote.
— Sally Buzbee
Inauguration Watch follows the events of President Barack Obama's second inaugural. Look for short items and photos throughout the day.