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Prize of Up To $25 Million Is Offered For Unmanned Moon Shot

The group whose $10 million prize spurred privately financed rocketeers to send a small piloted craft to the cusp of space in 2004 has issued a new challenge: an unmanned moon shot.

With the audacious new contest comes a much bigger prize — up to $25 million, paid for by Google, the ubiquitous Internet company.

The “Google Lunar X Prize” was announced Thursday in Los Angeles at the Wired Magazine’s NextFest. The contest calls for entrants to land a rover on the moon that will be able to travel at least 500 meters and send high-resolution video, still images and other data back home.

The X Prize Foundation saw the new contest as one of “the grand challenges of our time that we can use to move people forward,” said Peter H. Diamandis, chairman and CEO of the foundation.

The prize for reaching the moon and completing the basic tasks of roving and sending video and data will bring the winner $20 million, according to the contest rules. An additional $5 million would be awarded for other tasks that include roving more than 5,000 meters or sending back images of man-made artifacts like lunar landers from the Apollo program.

Witness Says Jeffs Pressed Her To Consummate Marriage to Her

The prosecution’s star witness in the trial of the fundamentalist Mormon polygamist leader Warren S. Jeffs testified Thursday that she was taught to obey church leaders without question or face dire consequences.

“We would forfeit our chance at the afterlife” by disobeying religious leaders, testified the woman, who in 2001 at age 14 married her 19-year-old first cousin in a religious ceremony performed by Jeffs.

Identified as Jane Doe, the woman told the jury that the fundamentalist Mormon religious leaders are considered by church members to be “gods on earth.”

How much control Jeffs had over the girl is crucial to the outcome of the case, which has drawn international attention to the fundamentalist Mormon polygamist community based in the adjacent towns of Hildale, Utah, and Colorado City, Ariz., about 50 miles east of St. George.

Jeffs, 51, is charged with rape as an accomplice. The prosecution says he coerced the girl to unwillingly consummate a “spiritual marriage,” while the defense argues that she was not raped and that Jeffs never encouraged her to submit to unwanted sexual relations.

Jeffs is the self-proclaimed prophet of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, a breakaway sect of the mainstream Mormon Church with about 10,000 followers across the West. The sect practices polygamy in defiance of state and federal laws, and its adherents believe a man must have three wives to reach heaven’s highest realms.

Fed Likely to Reduce Rates, But by How Much Is Unclear

When policymakers at the Federal Reserve meet to set interest rates next Tuesday, their debate is likely to be less about whether to reduce rates than about how much.

The meeting is also likely to be a defining moment for Ben S. Bernanke, who has not had to wrestle with a major economic upheaval since he took over as Fed chairman in February 2006. Wall Street, frightened by the turmoil in credit markets and in housing, is betting on the Fed to cut rates deeply. But Bernanke wants to know if the overall economy is on the brink of a recession, and the evidence on that is far from decisive.

Investors now assume that the central bank will reduce the overnight federal funds rate by at least one-quarter of a percentage point, to 5 percent. Fed officials have not tried to dissuade that assumption. But there is a possibility that the central bank will go further, reducing its benchmark rate by half a percentage point and signaling further reductions later this year.

Bernanke and other Fed officials have said they do not want to be rescuers of last resort for investors or real estate speculators who made bad decisions.

GOP Presidential Hopefuls Toughen Talking Points on Iraq

For months, the Republican presidential candidates have awaited the report to Congress by Gen. David H. Petraeus, often deferring more pointed questions on the specifics of their views about the way forward in Iraq until his testimony.

Now that his presentation has come and gone, their talking points on the war have only seemed to toughen. They have seized on the moment to amplify a connection between the Iraq war and the global battle against terrorism and to warn of serious consequences in the region of a precipitous withdrawal.

But they are also showing subtle differences in the way they talk about withdrawing troops and what they emphasize when they discuss the difficulties that lie ahead and the consequences of leaving too early.

Sen. John McCain of Arizona has taken on the war in Iraq most directly among the Republican contenders, speaking on the trail in the most detailed way about the conflict. And he is embarking on a “No Surrender” campaign tour this week in Iowa and New Hampshire to underscore his contention that withdrawing troops now would be a mistake.

“This strategy is working, it is succeeding and it must be given a chance to succeed,” McCain said in Iowa. But unlike the other top Republican candidates, he also expressed some concern about beginning to draw down even some troops, as Petraeus has suggested, if the strategy was making progress.