A passion for pinball
David Silverman's pinball museum is a labor of love.
December 10th, 2011
09:27 AM ET

A passion for pinball

Baltimore (CNN) - It’s a long way and more than three centuries from Château de Bagatelle in France to an entertainment district in Baltimore. That’s how far David Silverman’s passion has come.

An improvised billiards game at the chateau evolved into modern pinball. And if it’s pinball, David Silverman is bound to have it.

Silverman is set to open his National Pinball Museum in Baltimore in the New Year. Visitors will get to play all they want of 65 or so games, with another 90 on display. That’s just a fraction of Silverman’s collection, which is mostly stored in warehouses and buildings on his property in Silver Spring, Maryland.

The museum opened last year in a Washington shopping mall, but Silverman had to find new digs when the mall operators decided to gut the place.

(Click the audio player to hear CNN Radio's Bob Costantini report on Silverman and the silver ball)

Thanks to a thriving landscape business, Silverman has been able to engage in his hobby of collecting pinball games. The museum is a labor of love.

“Without question, the artwork,” Silverman quickly replies when asked what makes a good “table” as pinball aficionados sometimes call the sport. “I think the artwork to me is critical. Good shots, good ramp shots, good knockdowns (targets). The rules [should be] complex enough that I really want to dig into trying to find out how to get a higher score.”


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Gingrich should stay focused on fiscal discipline, friend and former adviser says
Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich announced he is running for president in 2012.
May 11th, 2011
08:39 PM ET

Gingrich should stay focused on fiscal discipline, friend and former adviser says

As Newt Gingrich prepares his candidacy for the 2012 presidential nomination, he needs to remind people of what he accomplished as speaker of the House dureing the Clinton administration, his former campaign chairman said.

Gingrich announced via Twitter Wednesday that he is a candidate for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination. His agenda includes overturning health care reform and eliminating the EPA.

Gingrich needs to remind GOP voters, especially the fiscally conservative, that he worked "to bring President Clinton to the table to bring a balanced budget, that he worked to reduce capital gains, that he worked to reform welfare," political consultant Matt Towery said.

At the same time, Gingrich should not talk up too many issues and ideas, just stay focused on the fiscal discipline matters that are driving much of the national debate, Towery said in an interview with CNN Radio.

Towery, a former member of the Georgia House of Representatives, served as campaign chairman for Gingrich and chief strategist for numerous national political campaigns. He said he is not working on Gingrich's campaign.

It won't be easy for Gingrich to deal with social conservatives when it comes to his personal life, which includes an affair while his first wife was stricken with cancer and a second while he was leading the Clinton impeachment proceedings. But the transgressions are not necessarily a deal-breaker, Towery said.

“Most people ... really don’t care about that issue,” Towery said. “They’re more concerned about whether they have a job, food on the table and the like.”

Gingrich has been facing up to his indiscretions in interviews, the Atlanta-based attorney and businessman said. Plus, “neither of his two former wives have come out against him.”

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The state of war and defense
President Obama greets U.S. troops in Afghanistan during a December visit.
January 25th, 2011
01:09 PM ET

The state of war and defense

President Obama is looking to put the finishing touches on the U.S. military presence in Iraq. A year ago, troop levels were at 112,000, slowly dwindling to the long-stated goal of getting U.S. combat forces out.

Last summer, the transition was officially completed, leaving about 50,000 American troops solely in advisory roles.

Meanwhile, the State Department is sending in a like number of civilian workers to try to build a politically stable Iraq.

"However, the Republicans in the House have been talking very loudly about significantly reducing State Department spending," points out Winslow Wheeler of the Center for Defense Information. "And they haven't specified how that might affect State Department activities in Iraq."

Obama wants to do for Afghanistan what's been done in Iraq, withdrawal-wise. He's planned to start reducing combat forces in Afghanistan in the coming summer, with the goal of having Afghans in control of their own security three years later.

However, Wheeler says U.S. efforts to train and motivate Afghan security forces are going "not at all well." The president's own troop surge has helped rout some Taliban and al Qaeda strongholds, but Wheeler worries that reports of how Afghan security personnel perform "vary from not very helpful to completely useless."

The president's upcoming budget proposal is expected to call for $150 billion in military spending to go to the two hot spots. In the war zones, cost-cutting gives way to the universal notion that you send whatever it takes to support troops in harm's way.

But when it comes to overall defense spending - 20 percent of the nation's budget - even Republicans are starting to question some of what the Pentagon spends and whether all programs are worth it.

On "Meet the Press" on Sunday, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor remarked, "No one can defend the expenditure of every dollar and cent over at the Pentagon. And we've got to be very serious to make sure that they're doing more with less, as well."

Recently, Defense Secretary Robert Gates called for modest defense spending reductions, amounting to about $100 billion over five years.

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Filed under: Barack Obama • Military • Politics • TV-State of the Union
Another long march: China's human rights struggles
A week before he met with Chinese President Hu Jintao, left, President Obama met with groups concerned with human rights abuses in China.
January 19th, 2011
05:27 PM ET

Another long march: China's human rights struggles

Last week, without it being on his public schedule, President Barack Obama met with four people interested in promoting humans rights and democracy in China. Ahead of Hu Jintao's state visit, the White House wanted to get the word out, but not make a big splash.

And the message the president heard included the thinking of some that China is already on a slow journey to more personal freedoms.

The guests included 51-year-old Zha Jianying, a writer who lives in New York. She was the author of 1996's "China Pop: How Soap Operas, Tabloids and Bestsellers are Transforming a Culture."

Able to travel between the U.S. and China, Zha has studied the cultural changes wrought by greater contact with the West. Still, she has a brother who was imprisoned for helping found the China Democracy Party.


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Demystifying China and U.S. debt
January 18th, 2011
08:38 PM ET

Demystifying China and U.S. debt

Despite what talk radio and late night comedians may say, China does not own the U.S. Treasury Department. Numbers show that 75% of Uncle Sam’s growing debt is in the hands of U.S. interests.

Of the international lenders, China is owed the most, just under $900 billion. But with America’s debt approaching $14 trillion, that’s not even 7% in Chinese hands. Of course, if China were to suddenly call in its notes, it would cause chaos to the U.S. economy.

But Christina Larson, a China analyst with the New America Foundation, says Beijing and the rest of the world still consider taking on debt from the United States a safe bet.

"China needs a place to park its capital and there’s no place that's as stable, easy to purchase and feel safe in as the United States."

Yes, Uncle Sam pays its interest, even if it has to borrow to do so. And, of course, with our stores filled with many goods made in China, the trade deficit has become a political hot potato. Yet, while China is the largest exporter in the world, the CIA Factbook reveals Germany is a close second, with the United States the No. 3 exporter, less than $200 billion behind China.

The outsourcing of manufacturing to China gets a lot of play in the United States, where fewer things are stamped “Made in America.” Experts say many of those jobs will never come back.

One nagging issue is the notion that China keeps its currency low to make its goods considerably cheaper to U.S. consumers. It’s a valid point that Beijing addresses every so often. President Barack Obama will, no doubt, push Chinese President Hu to do more on that front.

Hu also has domestic conundrum to deal with, analyst Christina Larson said. China has "to absorb millions of people every year into the labor market to prevent the dreaded social unrest," which will always be the top priority of the Chinese government, she said.

"They have an oversupply of people at this moment who've graduated from colleges and aren’t able to find high skilled jobs. An interesting fact that between now and 2030, there’s expected to be about 350 million people who move from the countryside to cities in China. That’s more than the entire population of the entire United States."

With the U.S. a much smaller market, in terms of population, China must turn inward to create a better consumer climate so Chinese people with extra money can buy the things they make, Larson says.

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Filed under: China • Economy
October 7th, 2010
07:54 AM ET

Ex-CIA head: Certainty a 'rare commodity' in travel alerts

A State Department travel alert issued October 3 advises Americans in Europe to “take every precaution” in the face of new, non-specific intelligence warnings about al-Qaeda striking somewhere in the continent.

“Intelligence professionals [are] probably fingering their worry beads at a higher rate than they were a week, a month, six months ago,” Ret. Gen. Mike Hayden said.

Hayden, a former CIA Director and National Security Agency Director, has been there. During the Bush Administration, part of his job was to help weigh intelligence reports and pass along information to the State Department that resulted in alerts, advisories and warnings for Americans abroad.


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Filed under: National security • Travel