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Muzzle sent to Tenn. vaccine expert was bought on Amazon account, credit card in her name, report says

Tennessee’s former top vaccination official, Dr. Michelle Fiscus, told state investigators in July that she received a dog muzzle in the mail, which she deemed to be a threat to keep her quiet.

The muzzle, however, was bought on an Amazon account and with an American Express card in her name, according to a state investigation that concluded Monday.

“There is no evidence to indicate the dog muzzle was intended to threaten Dr. Fiscus,” said the report, written by Special Agent Mario Vigil of the state Department of Safety and Homeland Security.

Dr. Michelle Fiscus holds up a muzzle at her home in Franklin, Tenn., on July 14.Stephanie Amador / The Tennessean

Fiscus, a pediatrician, was the state’s medical director of the Vaccine Preventable Disease and Immunization Program. She was fired July 12 in a political firestorm, less that two weeks after, she said, she was mailed the muzzle.

She has said her firing was a political decision to placate lawmakers who disapproved of the Health Department’s outreach to vaccinate teenagers against Covid-19.

Fiscus could not be immediately reached for comment Tuesday. She told NBC affiliate WSMV of Nashville that she acknowledges that the muzzle was paid for using an American Express that belongs to her but that she “vehemently denies” buying the muzzle and sending it to herself.

“I’ve thought about who could be to blame. It’s not anything that I have any evidence to show,” Fiscus told WSMV. “I think there is just a lot of layers here that … I don’t understand.”

Fiscus tweeted Monday night that “the state’s investigation did NOT conclude I sent the muzzle.”

“In fact, it only concluded my credit card was charged with the incorrect billing address – my state work office – to an Amazon account I didn’t know existed,” she said in the tweet.

“That account was apparently accessed from the State of Washington, where I had never been, by a cell phone using a carrier I have never used,” she said in another tweet. “I have asked the state for the full unredacted report and am awaiting a response.”

The report, which was reviewed by NBC News, was partly redacted. At times, it omitted names or personal identifiers, such as phone numbers.

An investigation was opened July 7 when a doctor with the state Health Department contacted the state’s homeland security director, Greg Mays, and expressed concern that the muzzle was intended as a threat, according to the report.

Two special agents met with Fiscus on July 8. She told them that the muzzle was delivered to her office in an Amazon package July 2 but that she did not open it until July 6, after the holiday weekend, the report said. There was no return address or other identifying data to indicate who sent the “silicon basket dog muzzle,” the report said.

Fiscus said she first thought a colleague had sent her the muzzle as a joke. But when the colleague denied having sent it, Fiscus told investigators that she viewed it as a veiled threat.

“Dr. Fiscus said she felt it was a threat and that she should stop talking about vaccinating people,” the report said. “Due to her role in the vaccination program and her authoring a memo on Tennessee’s ‘Mature Minor’ Doctrine that she had been singled out for criticism by some people in the public, as well as several Tennessee Legislators.”

A special agent contacted Amazon on July 8 about the muzzle. An Amazon employee told the agent that without a subpoena, he could do only a cursory bar code search. The employee said that based on the search, “the receiver (Dr. Fiscus) was also the sender, but he could not be certain,” the report said.

An investigator then spoke to Fiscus, who told the special agent that she had no knowledge of who sent the muzzle or why Amazon indicated that she had sent it. The report also said Fiscus allowed investigators to access an Amazon account in her name and to view archived purchases from the account. The account did not list the muzzle as a purchased item, the report said. Fiscus also said neither her husband nor her daughter sent the muzzle, the report said.

After a judge signed off on a subpoena ordering Amazon to provide more details about the account behind the muzzle, investigators learned that “the account which the muzzle had been purchased on was in Dr. Fiscus’ name and had been opened in March 2021.”

Investigators also asked a judge to subpoena the service provider of the phone number listed on the Amazon account the muzzle was purchased on, the investigation said. Records provided to the investigation showed that the carrier was T-Mobile.

Although Fiscus said her termination was political, state documents say she was fired because she was a poor leader and manager.

Tennessee’s chief medical officer, Dr. Tim Jones, recommended removing Fiscus partly because of complaints about her leadership approach and because of how she handled a letter about the vaccination rights of minors, which prompted outrage among Republican legislators, state records show.

The Associated Press contributed.

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Pop mogul Simon Cowell was a racing flop with ‘awful’ £35,000 horse he owned with Ant and Dec – that didn’t win a penny

SIMON COWELL conquered the music world – but his foray into racing ended in disaster with an ‘awful’ £35,000 horse he owned with Ant and Dec.

The music mogul, 62, has done it all with bands like One Direction, Little Mix and solo acts Olly Murs and James Arthur, to name but a few.

Cowell owned an 'awful' £35,000 horse with Ant and Dec - but the runner didn't win a single penny in six races

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Cowell owned an ‘awful’ £35,000 horse with Ant and Dec – but the runner didn’t win a single penny in six racesCredit: PA:Press Association
Cowell remains a massive racing fan and loves Royal Ascot and the Epsom Derby

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Cowell remains a massive racing fan and loves Royal Ascot and the Epsom Derby

His Syco label – plus shows such as Britain’s Got Talent – have dominated the entertainment industry and brought him an estimated net worth of £385m.

A lover of Royal Ascot and the Epsom Derby, he looked perfectly poised to strike a knockout blow in the world of thoroughbreds.

But it turns out his runner was far from No1 in the charts – and never even finished better than fifth during a doomed six-race career.

Things looked promising at the start.

Named It’s A Yes From Me, the runner was trained with the respected James Fanshawe and sent off at 8-1 for his first race in June 2014.

But coming last of five by 13-and-a-half lengths was unfortunately about as good as it got for the gelding.

A month’s rest followed before he was sent off at 40-1 in a six-furlong sprint at Doncaster.

But there he could only manage fifth again, and it was same at Redcar the next month.

‘Dreadfully slow’

By October that year – with further finishes of sixth and tenth – It’s A Yes From Me came second-last in a one-mile race at Kempton.

One analysis of the race warned punters the horse was ‘one to tread carefully’ with.

Well, Cowell and Ant and Dec took that advice to heart as they never raced him again.

The horse was penniless from six races, never finishing high enough to recoup some of that £35,000 investment.

It’s doubtful Cowell, with hundreds of millions in the bank, lost any sleep over that.

But Ant and Dec revealed just how bad things has got with the horse during an interview last year.

Dec said of It’s A Yes From Me: “It was awful, it was a dreadfully slow horse.

“It wasn’t a racehorse it was just a horse, because it didn’t race.

“Every time we got to the BGT studio Simon would say, ‘I keep paying stable fees on this horse, but I’ve never seen it run’.”

Cowell originally wanted to name the nag after himself, but they settled on It’s A Yes From Me when they bought it in 2013.

‘It was awful’

Dec revealed its eventual fate: “I think it got rehomed.”

Of course it’s not all been bad for Cowell at the races.

He was one of the exclusive few at the Epsom Derby in June, having a great time with partner Lauren Silverman and Piers Morgan.

And two weeks later he was at Royal Ascot – where he first discovered his love of racing.

Cowell told SunSport’s Matt Chapman during a chat at Epsom: “I’ve got my son Eric with me today.

“My mum and dad years ago used to take me to Ascot and I was probably about his age – seven or eight.

Cowell with partner Lauren at Epsom earlier this year

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Cowell with partner Lauren at Epsom earlier this yearCredit: Getty
It's A Yes From Me trails behind in last during one of his six races

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It’s A Yes From Me trails behind in last during one of his six races
The music supremo tweeted about his horse's bad start... which never got much better

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The music supremo tweeted about his horse’s bad start… which never got much better

Most read in Horse Racing

“So the fact I can now bring him to the races as well is brilliant. It brings back a lot of good memories.

“Making TV shows is my passion. But racing is actually my second passion.”

He hasn’t made that passion the money-maker his music label is, but don’t rule out Cowell staging his own comeback at the track in the near future.

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Commercial content notice: Taking one of the bookmaker offers featured in this article may result in a payment to The Sun. 18+. T&Cs apply. Begambleaware.org


Remember to gamble responsibly

A responsible gambler is someone who:

  • Establishes time and monetary limits before playing
  • Only gambles with money they can afford to lose
  • Never chases their losses
  • Doesn’t gamble if they’re upset, angry or depressed
  • Gamcare – www.gamcare.org.uk
  • Gamble Aware – www.begambleaware.org

Commercial content notice: Taking one of the bookmaker offers featured in this article may result in a payment to The Sun. 18+. T&Cs apply. Begambleaware.org


Remember to gamble responsibly

A responsible gambler is someone who:

  • Establishes time and monetary limits before playing
  • Only gambles with money they can afford to lose
  • Never chases their losses
  • Doesn’t gamble if they’re upset, angry or depressed
  • Gamcare – www.gamcare.org.uk
  • Gamble Aware – www.begambleaware.org
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Minnesota wildfire doubles in size, creates its own weather

A wildfire in northeastern Minnesota more than doubled in size Tuesday, growing to more than 19,000 acres, after it produced pyrocumulous clouds that generated lightning and even raindrops, fire officials said.

The Greenwood Fire’s growth, most of which happened Monday afternoon, prompted firefighters to leave McDougal Lake, about 80 miles south-southwest of Duluth, officials said. Authorities fear that structures might have been destroyed or damaged.

“We had crews embedded, and as this fire took off, it was quite an effort to communicate with forces on the ground so they could get out,” said federal fire incident spokesman Clark McCreedy.

The pullout was a success, and no injuries were reported. However, downed trees and necessary cleanup mean crews have been unable to assess damage around the lake, McCreedy said.

In addition to the firefighter pullout, 159 dwellings were evacuated Monday, according to an update from the National Wildfire Coordinating Group. Cabins, homes and recreational sites remain under threat, the group said.

Patrick Prochaska, a Minneapolis resident who built a cabin near McDougal Lake in 2012, told NBC affiliate KARE that he watched via security camera as flames mostly bypassed his property Monday, causing minor damage.

“I was feeling very scared,” he said. “At the same time, I could see that it was not doing anything to the house, and it was kind of reassuring.”

The fire in and north of Superior National Forest has mostly performed according to the weather, fire officials said. On Monday, with dry fuel on the ground and temperatures in the high 80s, it was an expanding inferno punctuated by strobes of lightning.

“The winds were drawn into the fire from all directions,” the incident’s fire behavior analyst, Michael Locke, said in a video update Tuesday. “It created what we call pyrocumulous clouds. And really high in the atmosphere … you’d see a thunderstorm, and in fact they went high enough to produce a few sprinkles of rain and even some lightning.”

Temperatures dipped into the mid-70s Tuesday, and the blaze mellowed. “The real story was cloud cover and cooler temperatures,” McCreedy said.

More of the same, and possibly rain, was in the forecast, giving officials hope that they might be able to close the book on an unusually active and dry fire season in Minnesota.

Experts have said climate change has set the stage for extreme weather, including an increase in the frequency and intensity of wildfires in the Northern Hemisphere.

Firefighters — 426 were assigned to the Greenwood event — have been confronted with “prolonged, severe drought,” making parts of Minnesota look like the fire-prone West this summer, McCreedy said.

The Greenwood Fire, which was detected Aug. 15, is believed to have been sparked by lightning.

So far, firefighters have scored no containment, and areas including McDougal Lake, Sand Lake and the Highway 2 corridor have been under mandatory evacuation orders. The federal Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness was closed Saturday “due to active and increasing fire activity, extreme drought, limited resources,” the National Forest Service said in a notice.

Officials set a goal of Sept. 1 for full containment.

“We’re probably going to get more of that moderating weather for the rest of the week,” McCreedy said. “That opens the door for fire crews to make progress on the ground.”

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Hiker survives grizzly bear attack at Denali National Park

A tourist from Indiana was attacked and injured by a grizzly bear at Denali National Park and Preserve in Alaska on Monday night, park officials said.

The 55-year-old tourist, whose name was not released, was hiking alone in dense fog in the Thoroughfare Pass area when a mother bear and multiple cubs charged him from nearby bushes, the National Park Service said in a statement Tuesday.

He had puncture wounds to a calf, his left ribs and his left shoulder, the agency said.

The victim used bear spray that might have cut the attack short, the park service indicated. He walked 1.5 miles to a visitor’s center where “medical personnel” vacationing at Denali treated him as a park bus driver called 911, it said.

The hiker was taken to a medical center near the park before he was transferred to Fairbanks Memorial Hospital, about 120 miles away, park officials said. He was stabilized at the Fairbanks hospital, they said.

“Due to the apparent defensive nature of this attack, there are no plans to locate the bear involved,” the park service said. “Female bears with cubs are naturally defensive of their young, especially when surprised. There is no indication that this bear is unusually dangerous.”

Grizzly bears are federally protected as a threatened species in the lower 48 states. According to the National Wildlife Federation, fewer than 1,500 grizzlies are left in the lower 48, but they thrive, comparatively, in Alaska, where they have a population of about 31,000.

The backcountry area of the attack is closed for one week as a precaution, the park service said.

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