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Watchdog roundup: Georgia’s chemical legacy; shady ex-cops

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How did Georgia’s pine forests saddle Brunswick with a heavy burden of chemical waste? The Guardian this week looked at how products made from pine stumps created an ecological disaster in Georgia.   Brunswick’s industries contaminated the soil and water, the paper reported, and today the city has four Superfund sites and 17 properties on the Environmental Protection Division’s Hazardous Site list.

Georgia will collect $360.8 million this year from the 1998 tobacco settlement and tobacco taxes but will spend only 0.5 percent of the money on tobacco prevention programs, a coalition of healthcare organizations reported this week. The coalition accuses Georgia and other states of sacrificing the health of children by not spending more of the money on tobacco-prevention programs. The AJC examined spending of tobacco money in 2012, reporting that the state diverted much of the settlement money to fill budget gaps, especially for Medicaid.

The violent behavior of a Fulton County sheriff’s department deputy eventually got him fired. But he was soon back in uniform and armed, licensed by the state as a private security guard. Working at a suburban apartment complex, he continued to have hostile confrontations and shot a man to death in 2012, according to a new report by the Center for Investigative Reporting.

As a consultant to medical device companies, an Atlanta cardiologist received about $100,000 in five years, the Wall Street Journal reported. But the FDA also appointed the doctor to be on a committee that evaluated devices from companies that paid him. Many other doctors and other experts who serve on FDA panels have similar financial ties that could create conflicts of interest, the paper reported.

In case you missed these stories from the AJC’s investigative team this week, check out the letter of apology that Fulton District Attorney Paul Howard wrote to the Atlanta police chief as a result of our investigation of blight. You can also read our latest look at the troubled VA hospital system.

Coming Sunday: For the first time, the federal government has released data showing what kinds of military hardware is in the hands of local police. We’ll have the lists for you. Also Sunday, read the accounts of women who were among more than a dozen patients who suffered pain, infection or disfigurement at the hands of a doctor the state continues to license.

Follow us: @AJCInvestigations and @AJCWatchdog

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