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Listen up. #BlackWomenAtWork need you to hear this

Editors, USA TODAY 3:38 p.m. ET March 29, 2017

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Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif., asks whether any senator would sign her formal protest of the counting of electoral ballots in the House chamber during a joint session of Congress on Jan. 6, 2017. (Photo: Jim Lo Scalzo, European Pressphoto Agency)

'I am a strong black woman. I cannot be intimidated, and I’m not going anywhere'

#BlackWomenAtWork was still a thing Wednesday. Why?  Fox News host Bill O’Reilly ’s joke about a congresswoman’s hair and White House press secretary Sean Spicer’s knock about a reporter "shaking her head" did not go well on Twitter, or really anywhere else — although there were different takes on what happened. Refresher: On Tuesday, Spicer chided reporter April Ryan of American Urban Radio Networks during the press briefing. (He was more cordial Wednesday , and allowed her the first question.) Social media's head then exploded after O'Reilly (who later apologized) made a dig about Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif. Their treatment was familiar for many black women who've experienced being dismissed, disrespected and marginalized in professional situations. Those stories are being shared with the hashtag  #BlackWomenAtWork Waters even used it herself : "I am a strong black woman. I cannot be intimidated, and I’m not going anywhere." We'll take this moment to remind people it's Women's History Month . So far, 2017 has been rife with pointed conversations on race and gender in Washington . If you don't understand what the flap is about, it's time to  study up .

Did you just look at your Samsung Galaxy S8? Because that's all it takes to unlock it

Hoping to finally extinguish concerns fueled by its faulty Galaxy Note 7 smartphone, Samsung unveiled the Galaxy S8 and S8+ . It is a gorgeous phone, with a 5.8-inch or 6.2-inch curved glass display, and Bixby, Samsung's first attempt at taking on the Siris and Alexas of the world. The coolest feature: an iris scanner that allows owners to access their phone by simply looking at the front of the device. All this tech won't come cheap. The S8 starts at $750 when it launches April 21.

Fact: New Hampshire is not a land of white sandy beaches and palm trees

But the Granite State might be where you should focus your retirement dreams . According to Bankrate.com, New Hampshire is the best state to retire. Colorado, Maine, Iowa and Minnesota round out the top five places. Brrr. Florida ranked No. 17 on the list. The top states offered the best options in the financial and lifestyle categories that matter to retirees, according to the report. Warm, Southern states, such as Arizona, Florida and Nevada, are still popular retirement destinations but didn't fare as well as the colder states in several important categories, such as health care and crime.

These reptiles will give you nightmares

WHUT. A missing Indonesian man was found inside a massive python, according to local authorities and news reports. Villagers found his body after cutting open a 23-foot-long reticulated python, according to the  Jakarta Post Entirely unrelated but also jaw-dropping is  a

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What would happen if we didn't have a leap year? And who knew Julius Caesar and Cleopatra were involved?

CLOSE What would happen if we didn't have a leap year? And who knew Julius Caesar and Cleopatra were involved?
What would happen if we didn't have a leap year? And who knew Julius Caesar and Cleopatra were involved?

February 29 can seem like a mysterious thing. But why it happens every four years is actually very simple. So simple, we can explain it in just 30 seconds. York Daily Record

Planet Earth at night

Planet Earth from the space at night . (Photo: Nastco, Getty Images/iStockphoto)

The reason our Christmases are still white, our springs green and our summers warm is owed to the historic fling between Julius Caesar and Cleopatra.

The royal affair , notes journalist and author David Duncan, spread the idea of our mismatched years from Egypt to the Romans and their Julian calendar. The Egyptians, he said, were the first to figure out the need for a leap day, an idea Caesar, learned through his escapades with Cleopatra, delivered to Rome.

It was an important change that has endured centuries and remains the reason we're not shoveling snow in July.

Put simply, we need a leap day because the length of a year, the time it takes Earth to fully orbit the sun, doesn't exactly match up to our 365-day Gregorian calendar. The exact length of our year, said Dr. Daniel Brown of Nottingham Trent University, is 365 days, 5 hours, 48 minutes and 45 seconds.

The means, roughly, each year is a quarter-day longer than what our calendars tell us. To make sure our years don't sprint ahead, leap day is added every Feb. 29 to slow the year down. More or less, the extra day accounts for the four quarter-days accrued over the previous four years.

If this didn't happen, our years would advance by 5 hours, 48 minutes and 45 seconds each year, slowly separating where our calendar year ends and when Earth actually completes its cycle around the sun. It would put our seasons out of whack. Over the course of a lifetime, the calendar could advance by weeks, and over centuries, temperatures we once identified with April and May would be taking place in the fall.

"In 750 years, middle of June would be when it's the coldest time of the year, winter," Brown said. "That's how much this shift would really make an effect on the calendar itself."

Of course, it wasn't always this way. Pope Gregory XIII put in place his namesake calendar, the Gregorian calendar we use today, in 1582. By that time, the calendar had drifted by 10 days, meaning important religious holidays weren't being executed on time. Take for instance Easter, which is tied to the first spring full moon, not a specific date. Therefore the pope, Duncan said, eradicated 10 days that year to make the date right again.

The British wouldn't adjust their calendar until centuries later, proving even the calendar isn't immune from political squabbles. English protestants, Duncan said, were so anti-catholic, they ignored science despite the drifting days. It took them until 1752 to catch on to the new system. At that time, they eradicated 11 days because the calendar had advanced another day since the pope's decision.

Florida State University physics professor Dennis Duke said leap year solved very practical problems.

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Iraqi forces in Mosul see deadliest urban combat since World War II

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Army Gen. Joseph Votel, the head of U.S. Central Command, testifies before the Senate Armed Services Committee on March 9, 2017. (Photo: Win McNamee, Getty Images)

U.S.-backed Iraqi forces battling the Islamic State to liberate Mosul are suffering heavy casualties in the deadliest urban combat since World War II, according to top U.S. commanders for the Middle East.

Gen. Joseph Votel, the head of U.S. Central Command, said Wednesday that 774 Iraqi troops were killed and 4,600 wounded since the Mosul offensive began in October.

Tens of thousands of Iraqi troops are battling several thousand Islamic State militants holed up in their last major stronghold in Iraq.

The casualty statistics, released for the first time, highlight the difficulty of fighting in a densely populated city where the militants have had several years to build up complex defenses.

“This is the most significant urban combat to take place since World War II,” Lt. Gen. Stephen Townsend, the top coalition commander, said this week. “It is tough and brutal.”

The willingness of Iraqi armed forces to press ahead with the offensive despite heavy casualties is a remarkable turnaround after they collapsed nearly three years ago when the Islamic State invaded the country.

The militants swept into Iraq from Syria, capturing Mosul, in June 2014 in a devastating defeat for the armed forces. The militants seized U.S.-supplied arms and ammunition, while Iraq’s military melted away almost without firing a shot.

“Now they are a professional force,” said Army Col. Joseph Scrocca, a U.S. military spokesman. “The Iraqi security forces are putting themselves in the line of fire in order to protect civilians.”

The dangerous urban combat has also exposed civilians to greater risk. The U.S. military said it is investigating a March 17 incident that killed dozens of civilians in western Mosul.

The U.S. military acknowledged an airstrike targeted the area, but officials also suspect that militants may have herded “human shields” into the building and might have stored munitions in the structure or rigged it to blow up. Townsend said the coalition used a small munition that was not designed to collapse an entire building.

The Pentagon said the air campaign exercises unprecedented caution to avoid civilian casualties, though avoiding deaths of citizens in a crowded city is difficult.

"As we move into the urban environment, it is going to become more and more difficult to apply extraordinarily high standards for things we are doing, although we will try," Votel told the House Armed Services Committee.

City fighting also places enormous challenges on ground forces. Fighting in urban terrain generally favors the defenders, who can place snipers in windows and hide down narrow alleys.

Even with precision munitions, it is difficult to use air and artillery power in a dense urban battle. Much of the fighting falls on the shoulders of the individual soldiers, who have to clear the city block by block. Iraq's elite counterterrorism troops have been engaged heavily in the battle for Mosul.

Votel said 490 Iraqi forces were killed and 3,000 were

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State Department official charged with hiding contacts with Chinese agents

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China's President Xi Jinping is scheduled to meet with President Trump in April. (Photo: Anthony Anex, AP)

WASHINGTON — A career State Department official, posted to sensitive locations across the globe, has been charged with concealing her contacts with two Chinese intelligence agents who showered her and family members with gifts and travel worth tens of thousands of dollars.

Candace Marie Claiborne, 60, was named Wednesday in federal court documents that outlined the alleged relationship with the two agents of the People's Republic of China who during the course of five years provided cash, meals, tuition payments, the use of a furnished apartment, phone and laptop computer.

The gifts and contacts, federal prosecutors allege, were never disclosed as required by Claiborne, who received the largess in exchange for her access to "sensitive diplomatic data.''

Claiborne, who joined the State Department in 1999 as an office management specialist with subsequent postings in Iraq, China, Libya and Sudan, was arrested Tuesday.

“Claiborne used her position and her access to sensitive diplomatic data for personal profit,'' said acting Assistant Attorney General Mary McCord, the Justice Department's national security division chief.

According to court documents, Claiborne once noted in a journal that she could "generate 20K in one year'' for working with one of the Chinese agents. That agent, prosecutors alleged, directed Claiborne in 2011 to provide an internal analyses on a U.S.-China economic dialogue shortly after wiring $2,480 to Claiborne's personal bank account.

The exchange built into an increasingly more lucrative relationship that not only enriched Claiborne, but an unidentified family member, prosecutors allege. That family member, described in court documents as "Conspirator A,'' allegedly received commitments from Chinese agents to pay nearly $50,000 in tuition to study fashion design at Raffles Design Institute at Donghua University in Shanghai.

While at the university, arrangements were made for the student to live in a fully furnished apartment and receive a monthly stipend that prosecutors said Claiborne "knew and approved of.''

When the student was subsequently implicated in an undisclosed "serious crime'' while studying in China, the intelligence agents allegedly blocked local police from investigating and arranged for the student's abrupt departure from the country, paying for the student's "last minute'' airfare back to the United States.

"Such an extraordinary step, in a country like China, makes plain the influence that (the Chinese intelligence agents) had within the PRC government,'' prosecutors asserted in a 58-page complaint unsealed Wednesday.

"At one point, Claiborne, having second doubts about the relationship (with the Chinese agents), fretted to Co-Conspirator A, 'I really don't want my neck or your neck in a noose regarding another party/person that has made this possible for you,' " the complaint stated.

In a Tuesday interview with FBI agents in Washington, Claiborne acknowledged some of her activities, according to the complaint.

“Candace Claiborne is accused of violating her oath of office as a State Department employee, who was entrusted with top secret information when she purposefully mislead federal investigators about her significant and repeated interactions with foreign contacts," FBI Assistant

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Ivanka Trump gets new White House title

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Ivanka Trump (Photo: Manuel Balce Ceneta, AP)

WASHINGTON — Presidential daughter Ivanka Trump said Wednesday she will take a formal White House position without pay but will be subjected to federal ethics rules.

"“I have heard the concerns some have with my advising the president in my personal capacity while voluntarily complying with all ethics rules and I will instead serve as an unpaid employee in the White House Office, subject to all of the same rules as other federal employees,” Ivanka Trump said in a statement issued by the White House.

Her official title will be special assistant to the president; her husband, Jared Kushner, has the title of senior adviser, and also does not get paid.

In her statement, Ivanka Trump said that "throughout this process I have been working closely and in good faith with the White House Counsel and my personal counsel to address the unprecedented nature of my role."

The White House put out a statement saying it is pleased that Ms. Trump has decided "to take this step in her unprecedented role as First Daughter and in support of the President."

It added: "Ivanka’s service as an unpaid employee furthers our commitment to ethics, transparency, and compliance and affords her increased opportunities to lead initiatives driving real policy benefits for the American public that would not have been available to her previously."

Ethics groups that had questioned Ivanka Trump's volunteer role, and how it related to government ethics rules, complimented her decision to become an employee.

"This means that, like other White House employees, Ms. Trump now will be required to file Form 278 financial disclosure reports with the Office of Government Ethics," said Fred Wertheimer, president of Democracy 21. He noted that she is also now "required to comply with the financial conflict of interest rules."

Ivanka Trumps is not the first child of a president to work for his or her father.

John Quincy Adams served President John Adams as a diplomat (and later became president himself). Anna Roosevelt became an unpaid personal assistant to her presidential father, Franklin Delano Roosevelt. John Eisenhower worked as an assistant to President Dwight Eisenhower.

Over the years, more than a dozen children have worked for presidential fathers. Most have been low-level secretaries, or in some cases campaign operatives, said presidential historian Joshua Kendall, author of First Dads: Parenting And Politics From George Washington to Barack Obama .

Ivanka Trump is unique in that she is a woman with high-level influence.

While Anna Roosevelt handled most ceremonial first lady-type duties for FDR, Kendall said that "it seems like Ivanka Trump will be someone with an input on policy."

In structuring her role, Ivanka Trump worked with Washington attorney Jamie Gorelick, who said her decision "reflects both her commitment to compliance with federal ethics standards and her openness to opposing point of view."

Ivanka Trump "will file the financial disclosure forms required of federal employees and be bound by the same ethics rules that she had planned to comply with voluntarily," Gorelick said.

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