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By MARCIA DUNN

The Associated Press
CAPE CANAVERAL
— Space shuttle Endeavour
and a crew of seven blasted
into the night sky Friday,
bound for the international
space station and the most
extreme home makeover
project ever attempted by
astronauts.
The shuttle rose off its
launch pad at 7:55 p.m. EST,
right on time, in a brilliant
fash of light visible for miles
around.
“It’s our turn to take
home improvement to a
new level after 10 years of
international space station
construction,” commander
Christopher Ferguson radi-
oed before liftoff.
Ferguson and his crew
will double as kitchen and
bathroom installers once
they arrive at the space sta-
tion Sunday, hooking up
extra cooking and sleeping
equipment so the station’s
crew can expand next year.
They will deliver a new re-
frigerator as well, giving
residents much-desired cold
drinks for a change.
The nighttime launch was
a special treat for onlookers.
Only about a quarter of all
shuttle fights begin in dark-
ness, and this one made for
a spectacular show. The
moonrise that preceded the
launch was an extra touch;
the nearly full moon provid-
ed a breathtaking backdrop.
The shuttle was visible for
more than three minutes,
resembling a bright star
until it fnally vanished.
NASA almost called off
the launch at the last min-
ute because workers didn’t
fasten a door on the pad.
Launch controllers assured
everyone that the fapping
door would not break off and
strike Endeavour and that,
at worst, the room used to
gain access to the shuttle
would be damaged.
“The vehicle’s in good
shape, the weather’s beau-
tiful,” launch director Mike
Leinbach told the astronauts
just before liftoff. “Good
luck, Godspeed, and have
a Happy Thanksgiving on
orbit.”
Endeavour and its crew
will spend the next 15 days
in orbit. The shuttle holds
enough irradiated Thanks-
giving turkey dinners for
everyone, with plenty of
space-style candied yams,
corn bread stuff ing and
cranberry-apple dessert.
ming for six to eight hours a
day without rest. The journey
will take about two months,
and would make her the frst
woman on record to swim
across the Atlantic Ocean.
“I’m saving lots of money,”
she jokes. “I only have to buy
a one-way ticket.”
The way Figge sees it, she’s
been planning the expedition
since she was 11 years old.
During a fight to Italy with
her mother, Margaret Roberts,
a storm was brewing below
the plane. While most chil-
dren would have been scared,
Figge had other thoughts.
“I told my mother, ‘I hope
that lightning hits the plane
and we get to go down in the
middle of the Atlantic and get
into those cool life vests and
swim the rest of the way,’” she
said.
She and her family have
always lived a bit large. Her
mother was a longtime profes-
sional opera singer. Her hus-
band was a successful banker
who is now retired. And Fig-
ge’s son, Alex, is a race-car
driver in the Lemans Series.
It was through him that
she found endurance sports.
He asked her to stop smoking
for his 7th birthday, and when
she did, she had to replace her
cigarette addiction with an-
other habit.
The answer? The Daven-
port, Iowa, native completed
the Register’s Annual Great
Bike Ride Across Iowa in 1990
with her husband.
She was hooked.
In all, Figge has now con-
quered more than 3,000 miles
running and crossed almost
25 channels swimming (they
have ranged from eight miles
in length to a few hundred
miles), battling the elements
all over the planet.
She fought through eight-
foot-swells and was stung
by a man-of-war on her left
leg during a 52-mile, three-
day swim from Cay Sal Bank
north of Cuba to Marathon
Key last year. She dodged
rock-throwing Gypsies and
outran hungry dogs during a
350-mile run across Romania.
She swam through waters con-
taminated with sheep manure
when she crossed the Straits
of Tiran off Egypt, and wind
gusts near 80 mph lifted her
off her feet in the Black Sand
Desert during a 300-mile run
across Iceland.
Each time, she was left
wanting more.
“I haven’t really had many
challenges in life, so I have to
challenge myself,” Figge said.
“Pushing myself to the limit is
the only way I know how.”
Figge would not be the frst
to swim across the Atlantic,
but she would apparently be
the frst woman.
Frenchman Benoit Lecomte
is believed to have been the
frst to record a trans-Atlan-
tic swim. He swam 3,716 miles
from Cape Cod, Mass., to the
Brittany region of France in
1998. The journey took him 73
days, stopping along the way
at the Azores Islands.
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DAMIAN GRASS
The Associated Press
MIAMI — Florida Inter-
national University’s fourth
president has announced
his retirement to the Board
of Trustees and said Friday
he will serve long enough to
give the board a chance to
conduct a national seach for
his successor.
“It is with mixed emotions
that I announce my decision
to step down as president,” 68-
year-old Modesto A. Maidique
said. “But I’m not in a hurry.
I’m not going anywhere.”
Maidique, who has headed
the school since 1986, is the
second longest-serving re-
search university president
in the nation.
During his 22 years at the
helm, the Cuban-born presi-
dent transformed FIU into
South Florida’s only research
university, netting $100 mil-
lion in grants, and secur-
ing an endowment of $100
million.
Fla. GOP legislative
candidate concedes
>> TALLAHASSEE — The Repub-
lican challenger in Florida’s
only previously undecided
legislative race has conceded.
Incumbent Democratic Rep.
Debbie Boyd of Newberry led
by 176 votes over Republican
Elizabeth Porter, a Columbia
County commissioner, after a
machine recount.
Due to the slim margin
of less than a quarter of a
percent, the state Elections
Canvassing Commission then
ordered a manual recount.
Porter, though, asked the
panel headed by Gov. Char-
lie Crist to stop the second
recount Thursday.
3rd-grader shows
up with gun
>> FORT LAUDERDALE — Police
say a third-grader brought
a gun to school and showed
it off to a classmate in Fort
Lauderdale.
The incident happened about
10:45 a.m. Friday at Walker El-
ementary School and came just
two days after a student across
town at Dillard High School
was killed in a school hallway.
The child allegedly showed
a 9 mm handgun to a class-
mate, who then reported it to a
teacher.
Police continue
to probe shooting
>> FORT LAUDERDALE — Officials
are probing whether a teacher
or staff member at a Fort
Lauderdale high school knew a
young woman had a gun before
she fatally shot her classmate.
Broward Schools Superin-
tendent James Notter con-
frmed the investigation into
whether Teah Wimberly’s
possession of a weapon was
known by someone at Dillard
High and went unreported to
authorities.
Judge halts work
on 1-mile bridge
>> MIAMI — A federal judge
in Miami has ordered work
stopped on a proposed one-mile
bridge on a road through the
Everglades so that environ-
mental impacts can be studied.
U.S. District Judge Ursula
Ungaro issed an order Friday
halting the U.S. Army Corps of
Engineers project on Tamiami
Trail west of Miami.
Bone found inside
shark not human
>> POMPANO BEACH — A fishing
boat charter captain discov-
ered a bone inside a 9-foot long
shark.
Broward County Sheriff’s
deputies said the captain
thought the bone was human
and called police Friday morn-
ing. The six-inch bone turned
out not to be human, however.
Captain Mark Quartiano
— who is known locally as
“Mark the Shark” — was gut-
ting the fsh Friday morning.
Still no bail in
Liberty City case
MIAMI — The alleged ringlead-
er of a plot to destroy Chicago’s
Sears Tower and bomb FBI
offices won’t be released on bail
before a third trial begins in
January.
A federal judge in Miami
refused Friday to grant bail for
34-year-old Narseal Batiste.
He’s been jailed for 29 months
in the so-called “Liberty City
Seven” terrorism case, which
has had two mistrials because
jurors could not come to unani-
mous verdicts.
From News Chief wire reports
floridabriefs
President
of FIU
stepping
down
By ANTONIO GONZALEZ
The Associated Press
OFF THE COAST OF MI-
AMI — The Catamaran isn’t
even out of Biscayne Bay
yet, and already 56-year-old
mother-turned-adventurer
Jennifer Figge is giddy with
excitement. She’s squeezing
into her wetsuit for a fnal
test before her latest endeav-
or — one that even her own
crew calls crazy.
The plan goes something
like this.
She will swim 2,100 miles,
from the Cape Verde Islands
off Africa to Barbados.
She’ll do it in a shark cage
attached to a sailboat, swim-
Woman attempting to swim across Atlantic Ocean
By BILL KACZOR
The Associated Press
TALLAHASSEE — The
state’s public schools have
laid off lunchroom work-
ers and bus drivers, slashed
administration, put main-
tenance on hold and soon
will exhaust their reserve
funds.
Any more budget cuts,
though, would reach into
the classroom, said Wayne
Blanton, executive director
of the Florida School Boards
Association.
School districts will be at
the bottom of their reserves
after the latest round of cuts
announced last week, Blan-
ton said Friday.
School districts began the
year with almost 2 percent
fewer dollars per student.
Budget cuts
exhausting
school funds
STATE
n Two bedrooms
n Bathroom
n Kitchenette
n Exercise machine
n NASA’s revolutionary new
recycling system designed to
turn urine and condensation
into drinking water.
station additions
Shuttle lights up sky on way to orbit
The Associated Press
Swimmer Jennifer Figge poses Oct. 31 inside a shark cage that she will
use for her 2,100 miles trans Atlantic swim. She will swim six to eight
hours a day without a rest in the cage attached to her boat.
The Associated Press
Space shuttle Endeavour launches Friday at Pad 39A at Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral. Endeavor is carrying supplies for remodeling the international space station.
Endeavor is carrying home-remodeling equipment to the international space station
8A S at ur day >> Nov e mbe r 15 , 2 0 0 8 Ne WS CHI e F >> WWW. Ne WS CHI e F. Com