The FCC gives the nod to the Sirius and XM satellite radio merger.

A summary of what's in the major U.S. newspapers.
July 26 2008 5:24 AM

Joined at the Hip

The Washington Postleads with news that the Federal Communications Commission approved the "long-delayed merger" between Sirius and XM satellite radio companies.  The merger passed after the FCC agreed the "marketplace has changed" since the companies started; satellite radio now competes with its Internet counterpart and podcasts for listeners.  The New York Timesand the Los Angeles Timesboth lead with California's passage of a law that requires trans-fats to be removed from restaurant cooking by 2010 and retail baked goods by 2011. The Wall Street Journaltops its world-wide news box with an account of Barack Obama's cozy meeting  with French President Nicolas Sarkozy, during which he "appeared close to securing an endorsement" from the foreign leader.

The Sirius-XM union, which detractors opposed for fear of a monopoly, won't come without stipulations, notes the WP. The companies "must cap prices for three years after joining and allow consumers to choose the channels they want and pay less for packages of channels."  They will also pay a combined $19.7 million in fines because "some of their radio receivers sold to consumers and signal-boosting radio towers violated FCC technical rules."  In its B-section coverage, the WSJ says the FCC member who cast the tie-breaking vote in the decision "held off on voting in favor…until she was satisfied that the enforcement part of the deal was completed."

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The NYT declares that having the trans-fat ban "imposed on the most populous state's 88,000 restaurants, as well as its bakeries and other food purveyors, is a major gain for the movement against trans-fats." It notes the California Restaurant Association opposed the requirement, arguing that "singling out trans-fats as a singularly harmful food product was arbitrary and that a mandate would prove expensive" and such a job should fall to the federal government. The LAT says that the CRA resisted the legislation since "it would not substantially affect public health because people eat most of their meals at home."

The U.S. military may be restricting photojournalists' access to operations in Iraq, reports the NYT above the fold. Embed rules forbid using images of wounded soldiers without their written consent and prevent "showing identifiable soldiers killed in action before their families have been notified." But some photographers contend the military has been using a catch-all clause in the rules that states "no information can be published without approval" to further limit the photos that come from the war zone. 

The WP off-leads with the prevalence of American donations in Israeli politics after recent scrutiny of U.S. tycoon Morris Talansky's "bankrolling" of luxury vacations for Prime Minister Ehud Olmert.  In Israel, the revelation of Talansky's donations of "expensive cigars," "a fine watch," and "five-star suites" has prompted an examination of foreign political patrons. "[M]ostly American," overseas donors are especially friendly to right-leaning politicians—those who "advocate aggressive military action against Iran and Hamas and who maintain an uncompromising stance against ceding land to the Palestinians."  Below the fold, a piece questions the growing number of reality TV shows featuring children that push "the ethical envelope" and wonders if exposing kids' struggles is "exploitation, or edutainment?"

Despite downturns in general consumer spending, luxury-goods-makers say U.S. sales of high-end products remain constant, confirms the WSJ in an above-the-fold article.  An increase in "entry-level items" and foreign spending spurred by the low dollar help explain the steady sales, but investors "appear to be betting that the boom won't last." The NYT rounds out its front page with a look at how sleep-away camps cope with "increasingly high-maintenance" parents. Modern moms and dads commit a variety of offenses, including making "unsolicited bunk placement requests," giving their kids illicit items like junk food and cell phones, and deciding that summer is "an ideal time to give their offspring a secret vacation from Ritalin."

Elsewhere, the NYT details molestation charges against a Judo instructor who serves as the top official in two of the sport's national associations. The coach allegedly groped his teenage female athletes during training, provided them with drugs and alcohol, and had sex with them on road trips to competitions. Though one girl's parents brought a complaint to local police as early as 1981, authorities didn't take action because of confusion over jurisdiction, since "the suspected incidents were said to have occurred on the road and at tournaments in different cities." The charges resurfaced when a former student posted on her blog after seeing her former coach at the Olympic trials.

Ever wondered about bartending's competing schools of thought? A WSJ piece dispatches from the "Tales of the Cocktail" convention in New Orleans, where it's avant-garde "bar chefs" vs. the nostalgic "classicists." But don't worry, the two camps are easy to tell apart: the classicists argue "over whether the correct recipe for a Clover Club is found in Albert Stevens Crockett's 1931 'Old Waldorf Bar Days' or Harry MacElhone's 1921 'ABC of Mixing Cocktails,' " while the bar chefs debate "which Sonoma farmer's market is the best source for organic tarragon and consulting on the chemical attributes of emulsions."

Morgan Smith, a former Slate intern, is a law student in Austin, Texas.

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