Monthly Archives: October 2016

Spectacular photos show how Hindus all over the world celebrate Diwali — the Festival of Lights

Hindus around the world came together over the weekend to celebrate Diwali, otherwise known as the festival of lights.

Diwali is considered one of the most auspicious times of the year for Hindus, and it marks the beginning of a new year in the Hindu calendar.

Though Diwali itself is one day, the rituals typically last over a five-day period, during which people celebrate by gathering with friends and family, lighting candles and firecrackers, and creating festive decorations meant to invite Goddess Lakshmi – the Hindu goddess of wealth and prosperity – into their homes.

In addition to India, Diwali is also widely celebrated in countries like Britain, Nepal, Sri Lanka, and the United States.


Devotees light candles at a Gurdwara, or Sikh temple, during celebrations to mark Bandi Chhorh Divas, which coincides with the Hindu festival of Diwali, in Chandigarh, India.

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Thomson Reuters

A woman colors earthen lamps for sale ahead of the Hindu festival of Diwali in Mumbai, India.

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Thomson Reuters

Children play with balloons during Diwali celebrations in Leicester, Britain.

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Thomson Reuters

A Tamil devotee lights oil lamps at a religious ceremony during the Diwali or Deepavali festival at Ponnambalavaneshwaram Hindu temple in Colombo, Sri Lanka.

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Thomson Reuters

An Indian girl plays with firecrackers during Diwali festival in New Delhi on Sunday.


A family from the Hindu community light fireworks as they sit next to a traditional artwork outside their house while celebrating the Diwali festival, in Karachi, Pakistan.


Candles are arranged to form a tribute to the Indian army inside a cricket stadium on the eve of Diwali, the Hindu festival of lights in Allahabad, India.

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Thomson Reuters

A street vendor spreads vermilion powder used for worship during the Tihar festival, also called Diwali, in Kathmandu, Nepal.

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Thomson Reuters

Participants from Newar community in traditional attire, dance during the Newari New Year parade that falls during the Tihar festival, also called Diwali, in Kathmandu, Nepal.

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Thomson Reuters

A woman plays with firecrackers with her son to celebrate Diwali, the Hindu festival of lights, in Mumbai, India on Sunday.


A woman from the Hindu community holds an earthen oil lamp while taking part in a ceremony to celebrate Diwali at Krishna temple, in Lahore, Pakistan on Sunday.


An elderly man offers sweets to an image of Hindu Goddess Lakshmi during Diwali festival in New Delhi, India on Sunday.

The FBI is reportedly looking into Donald Trump’s former campaign manager’s alleged ties to Russia

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Paul Manafort.
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Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

The FBI is reportedly looking into potential ties Donald Trump’s former campaign manager may have had with Russia.

The inquiry apparently stems from alleged foreign business connections Paul Manafort may have had with Russian entities, according to a report published by NBC News on Monday evening.

Manafort, who served as Trump’s campaign manager for several months before parting ways with the Republican presidential nominee in August, denied he had any business relationship with the Kremlin, telling NBC that “none of it is true.”

“There’s no investigation going on by the FBI that I’m aware of,” he said.

Current Trump campaign manager Kellyanne Conway, asked about the report on MSNBC Monday night, referred to Manafort’s comments.

The New York Times reported in August that a pro-Russian political party in Ukraine advised by Manafort designated $12.7 million in undisclosed cash payments for him between 2007-12. It is unclear what exactly the series of 22 payments designated for Manafort were for.

The FBI’s inquiry raises questions about the possibility that Russia may be attempting to influence the US presidential election. Those concerns have been amplified by Trump’s foreign policy rhetoric that some observers say is curiously favorable to Russia and its president, Vladimir Putin. The US intelligence community has accused the Russian government of being behind hacks of Democratic Party organizations this year.

The FBI’s inquiry has not yet developed into a full-fledged criminal investigation, NBC News said, and it was unclear whether or not that would happen.

News of the inquiry comes as FBI Director James Comey is being jostled by both Republican and Democratic leaders over his handling of the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s private email server from her time as secretary of state. The FBI’s move to rekindle that investigation was largely seen as potentially damaging to the Democratic nominee’s White House bid.

Clinton on Monday apologized for her use of the private server, as she has done before, and claimed the FBI had “no case” against her.

Natasha Bertrand contributed reporting.

Democrats are trolling a top gubernatorial candidate for claiming he doesn’t ‘know who the Koch brothers are’

Democrats are trolling Vermont’s Republican gubernatorial nominee, Phil Scott, over his claim that he doesn’t know the Koch Brothers.

On Monday, the Democratic Governor’s Association virtually “introduced” Scott, Vermont’s current lieutenant governor, and Charles and David Koch, the billionaire industrialists who have been top Republican Party donors for years.

The email pointed out that the Koch brothers’ political groups have given money to Scott’s past state campaigns.

Here’s the email:

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Democratic Governor’s Association parody email between Vermont Lt. Gov. Phil Scott and the Koch brothers.
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DGA

DGA Communications Director Jared Leopold said the stunt was intended to highlight the ties between Scott and the top Republican fundraisers, who host seminars for potential Republican gubernatorial candidates to discuss strategy and policy.

“The Koch brothers may be unpopular in Vermont, but we were shocked when Phil Scott said he said he wasn’t familiar,” Leopold said. “Now Scott can finally stop playing dumb with the media and start being honest about pushing his Koch brother-backed agenda in Vermont. No need for Scott to thank us – we’re happy to remind Vermont about his national Republican puppet strings any time.”

Most recent polls show Scott running neck and neck with Democratic gubernatorial nominee Sue Minter in a race where outside money has poured in to help both candidates.

For its part, the DGA has repeatedly needled a number of candidates across the country this election cycle.

The group created a set of fake movie posters mocking North Carolina Republican Gov. Pat McCrory over his apparent decision to replace generic posters at a state building with pictures that show the his accomplishments, and mocked Indiana Gov. Mike Pence’s decision to be Donald Trump’s running mate.

Sean Hannity promotes conspiracy theory Clinton was drunk at rally, then claims he didn’t mean to do so

Fox News host Sean Hannity on Monday shared a conspiracy theory with his 1.7 million Twitter followers which baselessly alleged that Hillary Clinton was drunk at a rally last week.

“God help us,” Hannity wrote on Twitter, retweeting the account “MicroSpookyLeaks,” which claimed “Secret Service says Hillary was drunk” in video taken of the October 27 event.

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Twitter

Hannity later claimed in tweets that he only found the video amusing and wasn’t actually trying to further the conspiracy theory:

But Hannity has promoted a similar theory in the past. His website featured a story on Friday citing a hacked email published by WikiLeaks about Clinton needing to “sober … up.”

A Fox News spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

In recent days, far-right blogs have moved to suggest that Clinton has a drinking problem. Most prominently, the Drudge Report featured a collage of photos showing the former secretary of state consuming alcohol.

Hannity, a devout supporter of Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, has not shied away from sharing conspiracy theories to attack Clinton.

Last week, the talk-show host featured the subject of a National Enquirer story on his television program to make outlandish claims about the Democratic nominee.

Hannity has said that he plans to do everything in his power to help elect Trump president. In the past, he has broken Fox News editorial standards to do so.

A Fox News spokesperson did not respond to an inquiry last week about whether Hannity giving platform to a National Enquirer subject was in keeping with network editorial standards.

The criminal probe into Valeant’s former CEO raises 2 big questions

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Pearson testifies about price spikes in decades-old pharmaceuticals before a hearing of the U.S. Senate Special Committee on Aging on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S.
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Thomson Reuters

Former Valeant Pharmaceuticals CEO Michael Pearson is under a criminal investigation in connection to alleged fraud at the company he helmed, Bloomberg reported.

The investigation is being helmed by US prosecutors in Manhattan and also includes former Valeant CFO Robert Schiller.

Following this news Valeant’s stock crashed 12% – so it matters to somebody out there. And there are two important questions that jump right to mind with the news.

First, how will this impact Valeant’s agreement with creditors? And second, how will this impact Pearson’s separation agreement with the company?

Pearson helmed Valeant during its glorious rise to become one of Wall Street’s darling stocks. He used a combination of serial acquisitions and drug price hikes to achieve that.

Then, last October, accusations of accounting malfeasance combined with government scrutiny over the company’s drug price hikes brought the company to its knees. Valeant’s stock price is down around 90% since last year’s peak.

Valeant has yet to respond to our questions regarding these two matters.

The debt

One of the most difficult things Valeant has had to deal with through this entire mess is its over $30 billion debt load. Back in April it signed an agreement with creditors that, like a lot of creditor agreements, included a clause protecting creditors from material adverse events at the company.

Here’s a slice:

4.10 Adverse Proceedings, etc. There are no Adverse Proceedings, individually or in the aggregate, that could reasonably be expected to have a Material Adverse Effect. None of Borrower or any of its Subsidiaries (a) is in violation of any Applicable Laws (including Environmental Laws) that, individually or in the aggregate, could reasonably be expected to have a Material Adverse Effect, or (b) is subject to or in default with respect to any Governmental Authority or any final judgments, writs, injunctions, decrees, rules or regulations of any Governmental Authority, that, individually or in the aggregate, could reasonably be expected to have a Material Adverse Effect.

So far investigations from federal prosecutors in Massachusetts and New York, plus lawsuits from shareholders like T. Rowe Price and TIA-CREF have not qualified as material adverse events, so we shall see. Either way, this issue may make it harder for Valeant to refinance this debt, which it may be seeking to do.

The agreement

Upon leaving Valeant, Michael Pearson signed a pretty sweet separation agreement. It included:

    A $9 million severance. “An annual bonus in respect of the 2016 fiscal year pro-rated to reflect the portion of the 2016 fiscal year elapsed prior to the Termination Date, based on (i) 150%…”Full benefits for himself and his dependents for two years.Office space for two years.”In exchange for the Services performed here under, Valeant agrees to pay Mr. Pearson a fee of (i) $83,333 for each month (pro-rated for partial months) that Services are performed through the end of 2016, and (ii) $15,000 for each month (pro-rated for partial months) that Services are performed after 2016 and during the Consulting Period. “Valeant will also pay for any travel expenses incurred by Mr. Pearson related to the company during his consulting period.

Of course, it also included a non-disparagement clause on Pearson’s part, which makes you wonder how Pearson is going to defend himself if this investigation gets worse for him. Here’s the clause:

Non-Disparagement. Mr. Pearson agrees not to make written or oral statements about Valeant, its subsidiaries or affiliates, or its directors, executive officers or non-executive officer employees that are negative or disparaging. Valeant shall instruct its directors and executive officers not to make written or oral statements about Mr. Pearson that are negative or disparaging. Notwithstanding the forgoing, nothing in this Agreement shall preclude (a) either Party (and, in the case of Valeant, its directors, executive officers, and non-executive officer employees) from communicating or testifying truthfully to the extent required by law to any federal, state, provincial or local governmental agency or in response to a subpoena to testify issued by a court of competent jurisdiction, (b) Mr. Pearson, if after consulting with Valeant it is determined in good faith by Mr. Pearson that a false or misleading statement concerning Mr. Pearson has been made by a director, executive officer or non-executive officer employee, from making statements specifically to rebut any such false or misleading statements made by such director, officer or employee, or (c) Valeant’s directors, executive officers or non-executive officer employees, if after consulting with Mr. Pearson it is determined in good faith by such director, officer or employee that a false or misleading statement concerning such director, officer or employee has been made by Mr. Pearson, from making statements specifically to rebut any such false or misleading statements made by Mr. Pearson.

So that’s that people. Things are getting interesting again.

How Facebook is pushing you to be more political

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Facebook

Facebook wants you to be ready for election day.

Starting this week, the social network will show a voting planner in the News Feed for its millions of American users who are old enough to vote. The new tool will include what’s on the ballot in both the upcoming presidential and local district elections.

Facebook product manager Jeremy Galen told Business Insider that the voting planner is designed to help people see where candidates stand on certain issues, especially at the local level.

“We’re saturated with media about the top of the ticket,” he said. “The rest of the ballot is often the surprising part of the ballot and where they’re the least prepared.”

Helping voters be prepared is just one example of how Facebook has deepened its involvement in the U.S. political process this year.

From Menlo Park to Washington D.C.

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Facebook’s prompt showed people a link to register and then asked them to share that they had registered with their friends.
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Facebook

Facebook’s political efforts are the result of a two-pronged effort on each side of the country.

The company’s civic engagement team works out of its Menlo Park, California headquarters and comes up with ideas like the voting planner that will be shown in the News Feed this week. Once a feature like it is made available on Facebook, the politics and governments team in Washington D.C. works with public officials and campaign staffers to make sure they’re all informed and participating.

For example, when Facebook’s civic engagement team introduced policy issue explainer cards for candidates’ official pages, the D.C. team worked to make sure it was as easy to fact check Jill Stein’s stance on legalizing marijuana as it was Donald Trump’s stance on immigration.

When the civic engagement team made it possible to “endorse” a canadate’s Facebook page, the D.C. team made sure campaign staffers were aware of the tool and that they could choose to feature prominent endorsements on their pages.

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Candidates can feature public endorsements on Facebook.
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Facebook

Facebook began its civic engagement efforts when it prompted users to share a message saying that they had voted for the 2008 U.S. presidential election.

For this 2016 election, the company decided to get involved earlier in the process and remind people to register to vote for both the primary and general elections. A prompt with information about how to register in each state at the end of September led to more than 2 million new voter sign-ups across the country.

Facebook’s D.C. team also organizes the social network’s presence at events like the presidential debates – where it was a live stream partner this year. It’s one of the main reasons that every member of the U.S. congress and senate has a Facebook page.

Facebook plans to eventually use the approach its taken in the U.S. to build tools for elections in other countries around the world, according to director of policy communications Jodi Seth.

“We want to make it easier for people to participate and have a voice in the process,” she said.

‘The Americans are hitting us hard with money’: US prosecutors say ‘narco nephews’ motivated by politics and cash

US prosecutors say conversations between one of the Venezuelan first lady’s nephews and an informant reveal the political motivations behind what has become known as the “narco nephews” case that has further inflamed tensions between the US and Venezuela.

Franqui Francisco Flores de Freitas and Efrain Antonio Campo Flores, nephews of Cilia Flores, the wife of Venezuelan president Nicolas Maduro, were arrested in November 2015 in Haiti and transferred to the US, where they are slated to face trial on charges of drug trafficking starting November 7.

A transcript of a conversation between Efrain Campo, 29, and a Drug Enforcement Administration informant that was seen by McClatchy details Campo saying “we’re at war” with the Americans, referring to the deeply contentious relationship between Washington and Caracas.

Campo also reportedly wanted the alleged deal to smuggle nearly 1,800 pounds of cocaine into the US to be concluded quickly because Cilia Flores, his aunt whom he referred to as his mother in the conversation, needed the cash for her campaign.

“We need the money,” Campo said, according to the transcript. “Why? Because the Americas are hitting us hard with money. Do you understand? The opposition … is getting an infusion of a lot of money.”

At the time of the conversation in October 2015, Maduro’s socialist government was in the midst of an unsuccessful campaign to maintain its majority in the country’s National Assembly.

Flores, a former president of the Assembly, was running for a spot as a legislator at the time, winning a seat representing the state of Cojedes in December 2015.

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Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro with his wife, Cilia Flores.
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Ariana Cubillos/AP

The conversation transcript is the first piece of evidence from the case released that shows a direct connection between Campo and Francisco Flores, 30, and Venezuelan president and his wife. US prosecutors say the conversations reveal that the defendants thought they would be supplying cash to counteract money they believed the US was supplying the opposition ahead of those legislative elections.

Based on information previously released by prosecutors, Francisco Flores expected to receive $560,000 of the $5 million the deal was worth.

Campo addressed the socialist party’s efforts defeat the political opposition’s challenge to its power, saying “We put them in jail over here … We send them to jail for 15 years,” according to McClatchy.

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Efrain Antonio Campo Flores and Franqui Fancisco Flores de Freitas with Haitian law-enforcement officers in this November 12, 2015, photo, taken after their arrest in Port Au Prince, Haiti.
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Thomson Reuters

It’s not clear who Campo was referring to at the time, though months prior those legislative elections a Venezuelan court sentenced Leopoldo López, a prominent opposition leader, to 14 years in prison in relation to violence during antigovernment demonstrations in early 2014 that led to the deaths of more than 40 people.

Defense lawyers called on US District Judge Paul Crotty to deny the admission of conversations that involved Venezuelan’s elections.

They called the statement “idle political chatter” and argued the “highly politicized statements” had no evidentiary value, coming when a DEA informant mentioned Cilia Flores and the elections.

After his arrest in November last year, Campo tried to downplay his earlier statements about putting money toward Cilia Flores’ campaign, telling DEA agents that, “I know I said that, but in reality it was for me.”

Those comments were part of an alleged confession, the inclusion of which Campo unsuccessfully fought.

“If those declarations are not thrown out, I’m of the opinion, 100%, that they’ll be convicted,” Mike Vigil, a former chief of international operations for the DEA, told Business Insider days prior to the judge’s October 12 decision to include the alleged confessions.

Report: Comey expressed concerns about accusing Russia of meddling with election because it was too close to November

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James Comey.
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Alex Wong/Getty Images

FBI Director James Comey argued in private against accusing Russia of meddling in the US election, contending it was too close to election day in November for such an announcement, a former FBI official told CNBC on Monday.

That allegation came just days after Comey sent a letter to congressional leaders informing them that the FBI found new emails in another investigation that may be “pertinent” to the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server, which he had deemed closed over the summer.

The Friday announcement regarding Clinton came just 11 days before the election, well within the department’s standard of not releasing information that could affect a presidential or congressional election within 60 days of voting. Comey’s now facing a barrage of attacks from prominent Democrats and political analysts for sending the shocking letter on Friday.

The unidentified CNBC source said that Comey made sure his organization’s name was not on the document released by the US government, cited repeatedly by Clinton and her campaign but denounced by Republican nominee Donald Trump, that evidence pointed to Russia meddling in the US election.

That source added that insiders were puzzled why Comey would have issues with the timing regarding the Russia disclosure, but not with the email discovery, which reportedly were uncovered in connection with an investigation into disgraced Rep. Anthony Weiner – who’s estranged wife, Huma Abedin, is a top Clinton aide – over allegations he sexted with a 15-year-old girl.

A representative for the FBI declined a request for comment from Business Insider.

Without the FBI’s involvement, the Department of Homeland Security and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence issued an early October statement saying the “US intelligence community is confident that the Russian Government directed the recent compromises of emails from US persons and institutions, including from US political organizations … These thefts and disclosures are intended to interfere with the US election process.”

The former official said that Comey agreed with the conclusion that other prominent US intelligence sources came to.

“A foreign power was trying to undermine the election,” the source said. “He believed it to be true, but was against putting it out before the election … if it is said, it shouldn’t come from the FBI, which as you’ll recall it did not.”

The source said Comey had a different approach to the email revelation because of his summer press conference on his determination. In July, Comey announced that the case had reached its conclusion and he would not recommend charges, later saying no prosecutor would. He did, however, say Clinton acted with “extreme carelessness” in using the private server.

“By doing a press conference, and personally testifying and giving his opinion about the conduct, he made this about James Comey and his credibility,” the official said. “You can see why he did it, from his perspective, once he had had that press conference.”

A Sunday Wall Street Journal report indicated that there could be as many as 650,000 emails to sift through, and it’s unknown how many are potentially related to Clinton. Other reports showed Comey apparently went against the recommendation of the Department of Justice in sending the letter to congressional leaders.

The CNBC report was almost immediately blasted out by prominent Democrats, including Clinton herself on Twitter, who posted the story with the caption “incredible.”

Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid’s office joined in as well.

His deputy chief of staff, Adam Jentleson, sent the story out to his press list with the caption “Ahem.”

In a scathing Sunday night statement, Reid may have foreshadowed today’s story, contending that Comey had demonstrated a double-standard, making the explosive claim that he withheld information about Trump’s possible ties to Russia.

“In my communications with you and other top officials in the national security community, it has become clear that you possess explosive information about close ties and coordination between Donald Trump, his top advisors, and the Russian government – a foreign interest openly hostile to the United States, which Trump praises at every opportunity,” Reid said. “The public has a right to know this information.”

“I wrote to you months ago calling for this information to be released to the public,” he continued. “There is no danger to American interests from releasing it. And yet, you continue to resist calls to inform the public of this critical information. By contrast, as soon as you came into possession of the slightest innuendo related to Secretary Clinton, you rushed to publicize it in the most negative light possible.”

But it is worth noting that the CNBC story came from just a single source. In mid-October, a similar single-source story was published in Fox News, claiming that the career agents and attorneys working the Clinton case “unanimously” believed Clinton should have been charged. The FBI is notorious for internal strife between offices and individuals attempting to grab power and tear down others, and there’s a chance that, in both cases, a source was looking to sting Comey.

Asked about promoting the one-source story, Clinton’s campaign manager Robby Mook told reporters in a conference call that the story had been confirmed by a Huffington Post story, which relied on an anonymous non-FBI source.

“We’re simply acting on the information we have here, which has now been confirmed by two sources,” he said after slamming House Republicans for calling the letter from Comey a “re-opening” of the case based on what he deemed as minimal information.

Clinton’s campaign also called on Comey to release all information on FBI investigations into Trump and his associates ties to Russia.

“Director Comey is the one who opened this door,” Mook said, later adding, “It was Director Comey who opened this door and broke protocol.”

Top GOP senator to FBI: ‘Your disclosure is not fair to Congress, the American people’ or Clinton

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Senator Chuck Grassley.
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Reuters/Aaron Bernstein

Sen. Chuck Grassley blasted FBI Director James Comey in a letter on Monday for his decision to notify Congress that the bureau had reopened its investigation into Hillary Clinton’s private email server without providing additional information.

The Iowa Republican is requesting additional information from the FBI regarding the investigation.

Comey has faced criticism for making a statement about the investigation even though the FBI doesn’t typically comment on ongoing investigations. He said in a letter to his employees that he felt an “obligation” to send a letter notifying Congress because he “testified repeatedly in recent months that our investigation was completed.”

The Clinton campaign has also called on Comey to release more information on what the FBI has.

“Your letter indicated that the FBI learned in an ‘unrelated case’ of the existence of new emails pertinent to the Clinton inquiry and that you believed the FBI should take additional investigative steps to enable the new evidence to be reviewed,” Grassley wrote in the letter.

“It is unclear from your letter what those additional investigative steps are, why they are necessary in order to review the emails, and whether they might include compulsory legal process dependent on the approval of prosecutors at the Department of Justice, such as seeking a search warrant.”

The emails were uncovered after the FBI seized devices belonging to Huma Abedin and her husband, former congressman Anthony Weiner, reports said. Prosecutors issued a subpoena for Weiner’s cellphone and other records in late September amid allegations that he had been sexting with a 15-year-old girl.

Critics are now accusing Comey of being motivated to influence the outcome of the election.

“You clearly faced a difficult decision about whether, what, and how much to disclose about this new information,” Grassley wrote. “Any choice could be seen as affecting the election. Some critics of your decision to update your testimony to Congress are inexplicably calling on you with their next breath to release even more information. While I disagree with those who suggest you should have kept the FBI’s discovery secret until after the election, I agree that your disclosure did not go far enough.”

He continued: “Without additional context, your disclosure is not fair to Congress, the American people, or Secretary Clinton. The factual context is important.”

Grassley also included a list of 10 questions he wants the FBI to answer about the investigation. He is requesting details about the time frame on the emails and whether they’re new or are duplicates of emails the FBI has already recovered.

Grassley also questioned whether “political appointees at the Justice Department might be withholding approval for the FBI to seek search warrants and grand jury subpoenas.”

“If the FBI is denied the ability to gather evidence through compulsory means, Secretary Clinton and her aides have enormous leverage to negotiate extraordinary concessions in exchange for voluntary cooperation,” Grassley wrote. “This has already happened in the course of this investigation.”

MAP: The most popular Halloween candy in every US state

Texans prefer candy corn, Alaskans want Snickers, and Californians like Lifesavers best.

That’s according to a recent surveybyInfluenster, a website that hosts product reviews. The company asked 40,000 people across the US for their favorite Halloween candy and then sorted those with the most votes by state.

Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups came out the most popular nationwide, but states differ widely in their preferences. Take a look at the results below.

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Skye Gould/Business Insider