AP answers your questions on the news, from American-made cereal to how a filibuster works

Friday, April 2, 2010

Ask AP: Filibusters, American-made cereal

When you’re digging into a bowl of cornflakes, do you ever stop to think about where that box of cereal came from?

A woman in Wisconsin is wondering whether any cereal is made in the United States, and her curiosity has inspired one of the questions in this edition of “Ask AP,” a weekly Q&A column where AP journalists respond to readers’ questions about the news.

If you have your own news-related question that you’d like to see answered by an AP reporter or editor, send it to newsquestions@ap.org, with “Ask AP” in the subject line. And please include your full name and hometown so they can be published with your question.

You can also tweet your questions to @AP, using the hashtag ‥AskAP.

Ask AP can also be found on AP Mobile, a multimedia news service available on Internet-enabled cell phones. Go to www.apnews.com/ to learn more.

A lot of news articles were written about the Republicans’ attempts to block health care reform. One of the tactics mentioned was the filibuster, now that the Democrats have less of a majority. Can you explain, in layman’s terms, how a filibuster works?

Paul Lovern

Arlington Heights, Ill.

The term “filibuster” is thought to derive from the Dutch word vrijbuiter — free booter, or pirate. It began to appear in the 1840s in the Senate, which, unlike the House, had no rules for cutting off debate.

President Woodrow Wilson, stymied by Senate inaction on proposed war measures, in 1917 prodded the Senate to approve a rule under which a two-thirds majority could bring about “cloture,” or an end to debate. In 1975 the Senate changed that to a three-fifths majority, or 60 senators voting to close off debate.

The longest one-man filibuster came in 1957, when Strom Thurmond spoke on the floor for 24 hours and 18 minutes to delay action on civil rights legislation. But that “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington” image of one senator reciting recipes and reading the telephone book in marathon speeches is largely a thing of the past.

What is commonly referred to as a filibuster today occurs when even one senator objects to action on a legislative matter. To overcome that objection, supporters of the legislation, often the majority leader, file cloture. The vote is taken two days after the cloture petition is filed and, if the 60-vote threshold is reached, a period of up to 30 hours of debate begins.

This process can occur more than once on a single bill: For example, a cloture vote may be required to bring a bill to the Senate floor and another cloture vote needed to cut off debate and move to a final vote.

Jim Abrams

Associated Press Writer


I like to support American workers by purchasing items made in the USA when I can. I’ve read that Kellogg laid off over 500 workers and moved production outside the U.S. Is there any cereal that is still made in the United States? Most boxes simply state that they distribute the product, but give no information about where it is made.

Kenneth Heilman

Eau Claire, Wis.

Actually, the vast majority of cereal sold in the U.S. — including Kellogg’s — is made domestically.

Kellogg Co., the largest cereal company and maker of products like Rice Krispies and Frosted Flakes, said more than 90 percent of the cereal it sells in the U.S. is made domestically. The company has four manufacturing plants in the U.S. that produce cereal.

General Mills Inc., the second largest cereal producer, with brands like Cheerios and Lucky Charms, said all of its cereal sold in the U.S. is manufactured here.

Ralcorp Holdings Inc., which owns the Post brand — maker of Honeycomb and Grape Nuts cereals, among others — said 95 percent of Post cereals sold in the U.S. are made here.

And Quaker, a division of PepsiCo Inc., said all of its cereal is made in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, which the company says is the oldest milling and production facility of its kind in the U.S.

Regarding the job cuts at Kellogg, the company said it has approximately 31,000 employees worldwide. Last year, the company eliminated about 1,000 positions worldwide, and about 20 percent of those were through attrition.

The other job cuts resulted from the integration of some acquisitions in Russia and China and other changes that the company said were designed to improve efficiency. Kellogg would not disclose specific figures beyond that.

Sarah Skidmore

AP Food Industry Writer

Portland, Ore.

I would like you to publish the names ACORN will be using in each state.

Diane Ducote

Pineville, La.

The ACORN national group, once based in New Orleans and later in Washington, recently announced it will soon close for good. But some ACORN affiliates had already changed their names and reorganized, and will continue to operate.

Here are the ones that The Associated Press has tracked down:

— Chicago-based ACORN Housing, which is now called Affordable Housing Centers of America

— California ACORN, which is now Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment

— New York ACORN, which is now New York Communities for Change

— Massachusetts ACORN has become New England United for Justice

— Arkansas ACORN, now Arkansas Community Organizations

Michael Tarm

Associated Press Writer


Have questions of your own? Send them to newsquestions@ap.org.

will not be displayed