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State of the Union: how should we respond?

President Barack Obama delievers his State of the Union address during a joint session of Congress on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. (Credit: Larry Downing/Reuters) Tuesday night, President Obama will deliver his sixth State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress. Continuing the tradition started by George Washington at Federal Hall in January 1790, the President is fulfilling his constitutional duties by "from time to time giving to Congress information of the State of the Union and recommending to their Consideration such measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient." While this annual address was expected, certain other qualities were not.

In a desire to fight a "lame duck" status, President Obama has spent the past two weeks touring the country on what senior adviser Dan Pfeiffer has called the "SOTU Spoilers" tour. In this unexpected twist, the president has taken his message, or as the Constitution says "his recommendations," to the people. If knowledge is power, the president is empowering the people and will reiterate that power tonight before a Republican majority Congress.

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Martin Luther King: he dreamed and we are dreaming

Dr. Martin Luther King giving his I Have a Dream speech during the March on Washington on 28 August 1963 (Credit: National Archives and Records Administration)Today, we as a country honor the life of Martin Luther King Jr. To honor the man, social media will inevitably be filled with quotes and office buildings will be partially vacant as we remember his legacy. However, in the midst of predictable quotes and an annual day off, something is different this year.

First observed in 1986, President Reagan signed House Resolution 3706 to make the third Monday of January a federal holiday. Though approved by Congress and signed by the president, the day was initially met with opposition as some states refused to honor Reverend King. Only 27 states initially observed the day. One state honored Robert E. Lee, another decided to pay tribute to Human Rights, while one chose to honor civil rights holistically. It was not until the year 2000 that all 50 states observed Martin Luther King Day. This day, since its infancy, has always been mired in controversy and characterized by divisiveness, emblematic of King's own life.

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Muslim call to prayer at Duke: religious liberty Issue?

Duke University with the statue of James B Duke in the foreground, located at the center of the campus of Duke University in Durham, North Carolina, is an ecumenical Christian chapel and the center of religion at Duke, and has connections to the United Methodist Church, April 1, 2010 (Credit: Nathan Rupert via Flickr) UPDATE: Thursday afternoon, Duke officials cancelled plans to sound the Friday call to prayer. With intentions to unify the university, the call did the opposite.

Beginning this Friday, the Muslim call to prayer will sound from the bell tower of Duke University. Lasting 3 minutes in length and happening once a week, this musical call to prayer played at a moderate level contradicts Bob Marley's premise concerning music:

"One good thing about music, when it hits you, you feel no pain."

This music has stirred a variety of reactions from both individuals on the campus and observers off the campus. Duke officials say the move "represents a larger commitment to religious pluralism that is at the heart of Duke's mission." Associate dean for religious life Christy Lohr Sapp says, "It connects the university to national trends in religious accommodation."

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Pillars of Creation: NASA's new photos

A Hubble telescope photograph of the iconic Eagle Nebula's Pillars of Creation, three giant columns of cold gas bathed in the scorching ultraviolet light from a cluster of young, massive stars in a small region of the Eagle Nebula, or M16 (Credit: NASA/ESA/Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA)/J. Hester, P. Scowen (Arizona State University)Last week, NASA released new high definition images of the famous Pillars of Creation. Located in the Eagle Nebula, this stellar landscape is approximately 7,000 light years away. These two pillars, measuring four light years tall, are to the astonishment of Texans, in fact, bigger than Texas. However, as side mirrors testify, images can be deceiving.

Scientists, with the release of the photos, explained that the pillars no longer exist. Now termed the Pillars of Destruction, they were destroyed more than six thousand years ago by the blast of a supernova. Our universe is so vast that it makes the release of this news seem like it came through dial up internet. Light, which contains and transmits these images, can only travel so fast, thus it takes some time for us to get these images.

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Haunted by God: Aweism and religious nones

David Rothman was in his work clothes and Albert Einstein was dressed for the beach when they posed on this rock at Horseshoe Cove in Nassau Point, Long Island, in the summer of 1939 (Credit: Reginald Donahue/Rothman family)Albert Einstein, contemplating the vastness of the universe and the peculiarities of human existence, remarked:

"The most beautiful emotion we can experience is the mysterious. It is the fundamental emotion that stands at the cradle of all true art and science. He to whom this emo­tion is a stranger, who can no longer wonder and stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead, a snuffed-­out candle."

This quote was influential in the recent work of sociologist Phil Zuckerman. In his new book, Living the Secular Life: New Answers to Old Questions, Zuckerman explores the moral and ethical foundations of secularism. Providing anecdotal evidence and candid interviews throughout, Zuckerman writes on the growing contemporary trend of individuals who choose to live without religion but with ethics and morals.

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