December 6, 2017: Russia Banned From Winter Olympics, Same-Sex Wedding Cake Case Divides Supreme Court Justices, Caribbean Resorts Are Scrambling to Save Winter Tourist Season

By Ian Zelaya December 6, 2017, 8:42 AM EST

1. RUSSIA BANNED FROM WINTER OLYMPICS: The International Olympic Committee has officially banned Russia from the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea, due to the country’s systematic doping operations. Certain athletes from Russia will be competing under the Olympic flag, but country’s government officials are banned from attending, and the flag and anthem won’t be present at the opening ceremony. NPR: “IOC President Thomas Bach and other members of the Olympic governing body pronounced Russia's fate at a news conference Tuesday afternoon. Bach called Russia's concerted attempts to break the rules ‘an unprecedented attack on the integrity of the Olympic Games and sport,’ citing the manipulation of the anti-doping lab at the Sochi Olympics of 2014.‘As an athlete myself, I'm feeling very sorry for all the clean athletes,’ Bach said. As it announced Russia's punishment, the IOC also released the latest report by the disciplinary commission chaired by Samuel Schmid, a former president of Switzerland. The IOC's executive board banned Russia based on the Schmid commission's findings about institutionalized cheating. … Russian officials have refused to acknowledge the scope and depth of the findings about the country's Olympic teams, saying that the problems were limited to individual athletes. Putin has called the doping charges against Russia ‘a dangerous return to this policy of letting politics interfere with sport.’ Released in two phases, the McLaren Report concluded that Russia's scheme involved more than 1,000 Russian athlets — and that it also included plans both for manipulating doping controls and for covering up the system.”

2. SAME-SEX WEDDING CAKE CASE DIVIDES SUPREME COURT JUSTICES: Justices including Anthony M. Kennedy were divided over the case of a Colorado baker who refused to bake a cake for a same-sex wedding, which was argued at the Supreme Court on Tuesday. The New York Times: “The case, which pits claims of religious freedom against the fight for gay rights, has attracted extraordinary public attention and about 100 friend-of-the-court briefs. Baker Jack Phillips says that he should not be forced to use his talents to convey a message of support for same-sex marriage. The couple, Charlie Craig and David Mullins, say that businesses open to the public should not be allowed to discriminate against gay men and lesbians. Tuesday’s argument, which lasted almost 90 minutes instead of the usual hour, appeared to divide the justices along the usual lines. The more liberal justices probed whether all sorts of artisans — tailors, hair stylists, makeup artists, chefs — could refuse to supply goods and services for same-sex weddings. Conservative justices considered whether artists can be required to convey messages with which they profoundly disagree. … Gay rights groups say that allowing businesses to refuse to provide services for same-sex weddings would undermine the decision’s promise of equality. The owners of some businesses that run on religious principles say they should not be made to choose between the demands of their consciences and their ability to make a living. Around the nation, businesses like bakeries, flower shops and photography studios have argued, so far with very little success, that forcing them to serve gay couples seeking to celebrate their unions violates the constitutional right to free speech.”

3. CARIBBEAN RESORTS ARE SCRAMBLING TO SAVE WINTER TOURIST SEASON: Resorts and hotels throughout the Caribbean that were damaged by hurricanes are racing to finish repairs at the onset of winter tourist season. Hoteliers also face the challenge of getting travelers to look past the island devastation they saw on the news. The Wall Street Journal: “On some islands, the storms caused devastation that will leave resort properties on the sidelines for much of the winter, as owners perform major repairs and contend with hobbled infrastructure. Hotels that remain closed on Puerto Rico include Blackstone Group LP’s El Conquistador Resort and Wyndham Garden at Palmas del Mar. Other parts of the Caribbean emerged entirely unscathed, fortunate to be out of the storms’ paths. For the hotels that remain, the reduced room supply in the region presents an opportunity to boost occupancy. Yet hoteliers throughout the region are facing a similar challenge: How to convince leisure travelers to move past the harrowing images of two months ago and book Caribbean vacations.'Our biggest damage was people misunderstanding the degree to which we were hit,' said Stan Hartling, chief executive of the Hartling Group, which owns three resorts on the Turks and Caicos Islands that were operational about two weeks after the hurricanes. 'People broad brush and say ‘the Caribbean in general is devastated.’'  It is still too early to gauge the full impact the hurricanes will have on the region’s hotel industry. The Caribbean Tourism Organization cut its annual growth projections of inbound visitors for the year to between 1% and 2% after the hurricanes, down from an original projection of 2.5% to 3.5%."


AUSTIN:  The seventh annual Moontower Comedy Festival, taking place April 18-21, 2018, has announced new additions to its lineup. New headliners include Ryan Hamilton, Janeane Garofalo, Preacher Lawson, and Colin Quinn. 

LAS VEGAS:  To celebrate the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo, Downtown Las Vegas Events Center and the D Las Vegas will host a weeklong celebration from December 7-16. Events will include nightly viewing parties, live entertainment, and meet-and-greets.

LOS ANGELES:  The 55th annual Marina Del Rey Boat Parade will take place Saturday at Burton Chase Park. 

For information on upcoming events in Los Angeles, visit Masterplanner:

MIAMI/SOUTH FLORIDA:  Design on a Dime Miami’s 2018 Designer Kick-Off Party takes place tonight at Mitchell Gold and Bob Williams. The event serves as the kick-off for the third annual Design on a Dime Miami benefit, which will feature more than 25 room vignettes from top interior designers at the Moore Building from February 3-4, 2018. 

NEW YORK:  Saks Fifth Avenue has opened a new restaurant pop-up, Broken Coconut, which will be open through January 1. The menu, curated by nutritionist Molly Rieger, centers on the eatery’s house-made probiotic yogurt and includes blended smoothie bowls, toasts, and several coconut-based beverages. The space is available for buyout for 30 guests. It's the second Broken Coconut following the original NoHo location, which opened in October and can hold private events and buyouts for 60.

Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights’s annual Ripple of Hope Awards dinner will take place December 13 at the New York Hilton. The event will honor Harry Belafonte. 

Kimpton Ink48 Hotel has appointed Ileana Acosta director of sales and marketing. 

“A Concert for Island Relief,” benefitting hurricane relief efforts in the British Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico, will take place January 6 at Radio City Music Hall. Dave Matthews, Trey Anastasio Band, Aaron Neville, and Hurray for the Riff Raff will headline. 

For information on upcoming events in New York, visit Masterplanner:

ORLANDO/CENTRAL FLORIDA:  El Buda Latin Asian Restaurant opens Thursday on Church Street. The restaurant is led by chef Roberto Trevino, a former competitor on Iron Chef America and guest judge on Food Network's Beat Bobby Flay. The restaurant fuses Latin and Asian cuisines and will be open for lunch and dinner daily with weekend brunch to be added soon.

SAN FRANCISCO:  The 17th annual San Francisco Comedy Festival, taking place January 11-28, has added Rachel Bloom, Jon Hamm, Maria Bamford, Fred Armisen, and Zach Galifianakis to its lineup. 

TORONTO:  Winter at Ontario Place, a new free-admission festival, will run December 8-March 18, 2018. The event will include a synthetic ice rink, film screenings at the Cinesphere, and the Winter Light Exhibition, which features 12 light exhibits created by local artists. 

WASHINGTON, D.C.:  The Children’s Inn at the National Institutes of Health will host its fifth annual An Evening of Hope gala April 28, 2018, at the Ritz-Carlton, Tysons Corner. 

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With contributions from Claire Hoffman in Los Angeles, Mitra Sorrells in Orlando, and Beth Kormanik, Michele Laufik, and Ian Zelaya in New York.

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