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Eat, Play, Shop, Live, Visit, Work. Your daily stop for the latest on all things Arkansas, including your comments. Send blog tips and feedback to Associate Editor Lauren James here.
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What's Your Opinion on Freeing the West Memphis Three?

Damien Echols, one of the West Memphis Three, could be released from prison today.

Three men known as the West Memphis Three -- Damien Echols, Jessie Misskelley Jr. and Jason Baldwin -- convicted of killing three 8-year-old boys in Arkansas in 1993, will be released from prison following a plea agreement accepted by Circuit Court Judge David Laser in Jonesboro today (Aug. 19).

According to, the defendants agreed to a legal maneuver that lets them maintain their innocence while acknowledging prosecutors have enough evidence against them. They were credited with time served, and Echols is being freed from Arkansas' death row.

They were placed on 10 years' probation; if they re-offend they could be sent back to prison for 21 years, prosecutor Scott Ellington said.

This is a case that’s lingered in the background of Arkansas life for nearly two decades, with everyone having at least a passing knowledge of it, and many more with definite opinions.

It’s also drawn national attention, including two HBO documentaries and the advocacy of thousands, including musicians and other prominent celebrities.

To read more about the plea deal in, click here. And remember to voice your opinion on the Comments section below this post.



State Collaboration with NCTR Could Lead to Jobs at Planned Research Park

Could the agreement to collaborate on research between the state and NCTR, sealed last week with a signed agreement and a handshake between Gov. Mike Beebe and FDA chief Margaret Hamburg, portend good jobs to come for Jefferson County? (Photo courtesy of NCTR)

The memorandum of understanding signed by Gov. Mike Beebe and FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg at NCTR in the Jefferson community on Aug. 12 is not the first time FDA has entered into such an agreement, but it represents the first time the agency has done so with an entire state.

FDA is offering up NCTR as a collaborative partner with the state’s five research universities — UA Fayetteville, UAMS, UALR, UAPB and ASU — and ultimately Jefferson County’s planned research park, The Bioplex, stands to benefit.

Commercialization of NCTR technology recently proved successful in the case of Little Rock startup Litmus Rapid-B … could there be more such ventures coming down the wooded path?

State officials and business leaders don’t like to admit they think NCTR could help spawn a research park full of startups (and good, high-paying jobs). But they haven’t said it’s not a realistic vision, either.

(Check out: NCTR Has Potential to Create High-paying Jobs)

Lou Ann Nisbett, president and chief executive officer of the Economic Development Alliance of Jefferson County, issued the following statement about the Bioplex and potential NCTR commercialization. The alliance developed the 1,500 acre site — adjacent to NCTR, just so happens — and has laid roads and utilities.

All it needs are tenants.

“The historic agreement signed Aug. 12 between the State of Arkansas and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration represents a significant step toward development of additional technology resources for our state and nation,” Nisbett said in an e-mail statement. “This collabrative agreement will serve to focus growing interest in nanotechnology and toxicology research and associated processes, which we want to see expanded at NCTR and into our planned research park, The Bioplex, in northern Jefferson County.

“The Bioplex’s 1,500 acres are adjacent to NCTR and ideally located for companies interested in taking this cutting-edge research into commercialization. NCTR is a tremendously impressive foundation for further technology growth, and we’re extremely fortunate to have this resource in Jefferson County. Our goal is to build on that resource to broaden our region’s scientific infrastructure and workforce.”

Sounds like a football coach who knows a big win is possible but utilizes tempered optimism. His (her) team hasn’t broken the plane of the goal line just yet. But the Bioplex would seem to have the ball in pretty decent field position, first down and plenty of time on the clock.

Trunk Show this Weekend at Proposals (Two Designers Featured)

Image by Melissa Sweet

Come see the latest Melissa Sweet collection during a trunk show Aug. 19-20 at Proposals Boutique in Little Rock.

Come see (and get a deal on) the latest Melissa Sweet bridal collection Aug. 19 & 20 at Proposals Boutique in Little Rock. The trunk show of gorgeous gowns will be to die for!

In addition to Melissa Sweet, Proposals is also hosting Avant Bride NYC, a couture bridal accessories designer with incredible peices. (We featured them in our American Royalty fashion spread in our latest issue!)

Call to make an appointment, or pray you can walk in and get in on this amazing event today and tomorrow only!

Proposals: 5913 Kavanaugh Blvd., Little Rock, AR 72207; (501) 661-GOWN

Water Education Festival Is Saturday at Beaver Lake Near Rogers

Beaver Lake

The fifth annual Secchi Day on Beaver Lake will be held from 9 a.m.-noon Saturday (Aug. 20) at the East and West shelters of Prairie Creek Recreation Area.

Admission is free, and lunch will be served at no charge to the first 400 attendees.

Secchi Day is named for the Secchi disk, a device lowered into the water to measure clarity. Volunteers are trained at lakeside about 10 minutes before they launch from four different sites that morning. They travel to a specific location to measure clarity with the Secchi disk while gathering water samples to be analyzed for chlorophyll a, nitrate and total phosphorous.

To get to Prairie Creek, take Arkansas 12 east of Rogers for about 4 miles. Turn left on North Park Road and go about 1 mile. The address is 9300 North Park Road, Rogers.

For more information click here. 

New Movies: Conan the Barbarian, Fright Night, More

Jason Momoa as Conan the Barbarian.

To read reviews of these and other films click here.

Conan the Barbarian (R for violence, sexuality, nudity) Conan (Jason Momoa) realizes he is the only hope of saving the great nations of Hyboria from an encroaching reign of supernatural evil. With Rose McGowan; directed by Marcus Nispel. In 2D and 3D.

Fright Night (R for bloody horror violence, language) A revamping of the 1985 comedy-horror classic in which ultra-cool high school senior Charlie Brewster (Anton Yelchin) runs into trouble when Jerry (Colin Farrell) -- who is not quite right -- moves in next door. With Toni Collette; directed by Craig Gillespie. in 2D and 3D.

One Day (PG-13 (for sexual content, partial nudity, language, violence, substance abuse) Working-class Emma (Anne Hathaway) and wealthy charmer Dexter (Jim Sturgess), who meet on July 15, 1988 -- the night of their college graduation – reconnect on that date for two decades. With Patricia Clarkson, Romola Garai; directed by Lone Scherfig. 

Snow Flower and the Secret Fan (PG-13 for sexuality, violence, drug use) Wayne Wang directs this historical drama about two girls in 19th-century China who develop a secret code to deal with cultural restrictions on women. Subtitled. With Russell Wong, Bingbing Li, Vivian Wu. 

Spy Kids: All the Time in the World (PG for mild action, rude humor) Retired spy Marissa (Jessica Alba), now stepmom to 10-year-old twins, is called back into action by the head of OSS -- where the now-defunct Spy Kids division was created -- when maniacal Timekeeper (Jeremy Piven) threatens to take over the planet. With Alexa Vega, Daryl Sabara, Antonio Banderas, Danny Trejo; directed by Robert Rodriguez. in 2D and 3D.








Homeland Security Secretary at Clinton School Monday

Janet Napolitano

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano will discuss the role public service can play in securing our country at 6 p.m. Monday (Aug. 22) at the Clinton School of Public Service, 1200 President Clinton Ave., Little Rock.

As the nation’s third Secretary of Homeland Security, Napolitano has forged new partnerships with international allies and expanded information sharing among federal, state, and local law enforcement. She has initiated strategic approaches to strengthening security along the U.S. southwest border, enforcing immigration laws and bolstering the nation’s ability to prepare for, respond to, and recover from disasters.

Prior to her appointment, Napolitano was serving her second term as governor of Arizona where she was recognized for her leadership in national security, border security and immigration.

Admission is free. Reserve your seats by e-mailing or calling (501) 683-5239.

Tickets on Sale for Cirque du Soleil's Dralion Dec. 13-14 at Verizon Arena

Tickets are on sale for Dralion, presented by Cirque du Soleil, coming at 7:30 p.m. Dec. 13 and 14 at Verizon Arena, North Little Rock.

Prices are $32, $52, $72, $92 and $142. Tickets are available at the Verizon Arena Box Office, all Ticketmaster Outlets, charge by phone at (800) 745-3000 or at

Dralion (pronounced Dra-lee-on) draws its inspiration from Eastern philosophy's quest for harmony between humans and nature. The show’s name is derived from its two emblematic creatures: the dragon, symbolizing the East, and the lion, symbolizing the West.

UPDATE: Apple Store Opening Date Still Up In The Air

The full line of Apple products will be available at the Apple Store at Promenade at Chenal.

A caller whose relative will be working at The Apple Store at The Promenade at Chenal says the opening date of Aug. 20 that we announced here is premature. "That might have been the date the contractor hands the store over" to the employees, he said, but the staff still needs to undergo in-store training.

Plus the variation in inventory -- the need to have the proper number of iPads, for example -- will be the true indicator of when the store will open, he adds, hopefully within a few weeks.

The store be similar to Apple stores in other cities, it will be stocked with all Apple products and be staffed with specialists who can answer questions and get customers up and running on Apple purchases before they leave the store.

There will be hands-on technical support and repairs available at the Genius Bar and free workshops on topics such as getting started on a Mac, digital photography, music, and moviemaking. 

We don't have any info from Apple on hours, but the shopping center representative says all stores there must be open from 10 a.m.-9 p.m. Monday-Saturday and noon-6 p.m. Sunday. 

The open-air shopping center at 17711 Chenal Parkway, Little Rock, is gradually filling up. On the way: The Wine Loft, J. Crew, Nike, and Big Orange (opening Monday, Aug. 22).

To learn more about new arrivals at Promenade at Chenal click here. 

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About The Author
What’s new in shopping, the arts, music, travel, fun parties and delicious food in Arkansas? Let Lauren James of be your guide. An avid shopper, traveler and lover of everything-arts-related, she will show you the best of what Arkansas has to offer. Make your go-to spot every day to learn the latest in entertainment, dining, attractions, activities and more.
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Our Sunday plans are secured. HomeGoods is set to open its doors at The Promenade at Chenal Sunday morning.

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