Several dogs in the Triangle have won freedom from tethers and chains, thanks to the efforts of the Coalition to Unchain Dogs, a volunteer group based in Durham. Founder Amanda Arrington and crews of volunteers use donated money and materials to build fences for low-income families, so dogs like Flex, Brownie and Bearand 17 others, to datecan run and play in the grass. The coalition vaccinated and spayed or neutered the dogs, too. See “before” and “after” pictures on the group’s Web site, To donate money or muscle, contact Arrington at 308-3660 or

U.S. Rep. Bob Etheridge, a Democrat from Lillington, was the only local member of Congress to support legislation that expanded the government’s authority to eavesdrop on the international telephone calls and e-mail messages of American citizens without warrants. Bush signed the measure into law on Sunday, legalizing the surveillance his administration has conducted in secret since shortly after the 2001 terrorist attacks. The new law gives the attorney general and the director of national intelligence the power to approve the international surveillance, rather than the special intelligence courtas if Alberto Gonzales needed even more power to violate American trust.

Neighborhood activist Tom Miller is pressuring Durham’s elected officials to make developers adhere to the blueprints they submit with major zoning applications, and not turn in plans that hardly resemble what developers actually build. The Herald-Sun reported that Miller, from the Watts Hospital-Hillandale Neighborhood Association, asked members of the Joint City/County Planning Committee to rewrite Durham’s land-use law to make developers commit to what they put on paper. Too often, citizens who take part in the zoning review process are forced to make judgments based on conceptual drawings designed to win public support, only to find those drawings drastically altered before construction.

Democratic state senator David Hoyle, a real estate developer from Gaston County, seems happy to do the bidding of his fellow builders, with his recently ratified bill that requires counties and cities to pay interest on taxes and fees that the courts later deem outside the law. While it may seem reasonable to make governments pay interest on the feesso reasonable that only two House members voted against the billthe issue is whether the fees should be illegal in the first place. Hoyle’s bill is designed to pre-empt local governments from testing the law. The legislature continues to pass along the costs of growth to the counties and cities but won’t give them any options to pay the financial burden other than property taxes. Citizens, not the real estate lobby, deserve the right to choose how to pay for growth.