December 23, 1998 – Weathering The Arctic Express – Branson Circles The Globe – Clinton Popularity Soars.
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December 23, 1998 – The Arctic Express of 1998 – a frigid blast of cold swept through much of the U.S., causing the usual havoc, but raising more than the usual eyebrows. Temperatures in places such as Winston-Salem North Carolina woke up to temperatures only the day before at 65 – but in less than 24 hours the temperature struggled to hit 29 degrees. And with Arctic weather and Arctic ice came Arctic havoc. Streets and highways were reduced to so many pinball machines, with traffic pileups into the dozens and injuries into the hundreds, and a climbing death toll. It was a day not safe to venture outdoors, let alone drive anywhere. How this was going to impact retailers who were hoping the last minute rush at Christmas Shopping would give a much needed boost in holiday sales remained to be seen. The forecast looked no better, with temperatures raising only slightly, as well as raising the possibility of more freezing rain. Christmas Eve was going to be a sight to behold.
There was other news – President Clinton, only the second American President since Andrew Johnson to be impeached was enjoying a popularity boost around the country. Ahead was the impeachment trial in the Senate, slated to take place in January. Key figure Monica Lewinsky was rumored to be getting the chance to tell her story before some 100 U.S. Senators. Not only Monica, but Betty Curry and Linda Tripp could be compelled to testify as Senate Republicans called for all witnesses to be brought up before the governing body and cross-examined. All 45 Democratic Senators said they would vote not to convict and several Senators admitted the trial could be stopped at almost any time. It was also revealed that the trial could explore other women alleged to have involvement with the President. The information came from undisclosed files compiled by Kenneth Starr and shown to moderate Republicans before the impeachment vote, swaying at least one Female member to change her mind and vote for impeachment. The White House was described as stunned, that those files were shared with members who did not serve on the Judiciary Committee.
And environmentalist, business mogul and former owner of Virgin Records Richard Branson was busy circling the globe in a hot-air balloon with fellow adventurers, Steve Fossett and Per Lindstrand. The Virgin Global Challenger crossed the half-way mark about 1,700 miles away from the Japanese coast, and was travelling at 145mph at 31,000ft over the Pacific Ocean.
Earlier Mike Kendrick, project director, had expressed concern that the forecast lull in the weather system over the Pacific could slow the balloon down and send it backtracking towards Hawaii.
“Wind and weather and fuel are the problems we know about. It’s the political ones we don’t like dealing with,” he said.
Once over the line, their projected route should take them over the west coast of USA before dawn, and was expected to be just in time for Christmas.
And that’s just a sample of what went on, this December 23rd 1998, as reported by The CBS World News Roundup.