The Belgian Congo was a Belgian colony in Central Africa from 1908 until independence in 1960. The former colony adopted its present-day name, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, in 1964. Colonial rule in the Congo began in the late 19th century. King Leopold II of Belgium attempted to persuade the Belgian government to support colonial expansion around the then-largely unexplored Congo Basin, their ambivalence resulted in Leopold's establishing a colony himself. With support from a number of Western countries, Leopold achieved international recognition for a personal colony, the Congo Free State, in 1885. By the turn of the century, the violence used by Free State officials against indigenous Congolese and a ruthless system of economic exploitation led to intense diplomatic pressure on Belgium to take official control of the country, which it did by creating the Belgian Congo in 1908. Belgian rule in the Congo was based on the "colonial trinity" of state and private-company interests; the privileging of Belgian commercial interests meant that large amounts of capital flowed into the Congo and that individual regions became specialised.
On many occasions, the interests of the government and of private enterprise became linked, the state helped companies to break strikes and to remove other barriers raised by the indigenous population. The colony was divided into hierarchically organised administrative subdivisions, run uniformly according to a set "native policy"; this contrasted the practice of British and French colonial policy, which favoured systems of indirect rule, retaining traditional leaders in positions of authority under colonial oversight. During the 1940s and 1950s the Belgian Congo experienced extensive urbanisation, the colonial administration began various development programmes aimed at making the territory into a "model colony". One result saw the development of a new middle-class of Europeanised African "évolués" in the cities. By the 1950s the Congo had a wage labour force twice as large as that in any other African colony. In 1960, as the result of a widespread and radical pro-independence movement, the Congo achieved independence, becoming the Republic of Congo under Prime Minister Patrice Lumumba and President Joseph Kasa-Vubu.
Poor relations between political factions within the Congo, the continued involvement of Belgium in Congolese affairs, the intervention by major parties during the Cold War led to a five-year-long period of war and political instability, known as the Congo Crisis, from 1960 to 1965. This ended with the seizure of power by Joseph-Désiré Mobutu in November 1965; until the part of the 19th century, few Europeans had ventured into the Congo basin. The rainforest and accompanying malaria and other tropical diseases, such as sleeping sickness, made it a difficult environment for European exploration and exploitation. In 1876, King Leopold II of Belgium organized the International African Association with the cooperation of the leading African explorers and the support of several European governments for the promotion of African exploration and colonization. After Henry Morton Stanley had explored the region in a journey that ended in 1878, Leopold courted the explorer and hired him to help his interests in the region.
Leopold II had been keen to acquire a colony for Belgium before he ascended to the throne in 1865. The Belgian civil government showed little interest in its monarch's dreams of empire-building. Ambitious and stubborn, Leopold decided to pursue the matter on his own account. European rivalry in Central Africa led to diplomatic tensions, in particular with regard to the unclaimed Congo River basin. In November 1884 Otto von Bismarck convened a 14-nation conference to find a peaceful resolution to the Congo crisis. Though the Berlin Conference did not formally approve the territorial claims of the European powers in Central Africa, it did agree on a set of rules to ensure a conflict-free partitioning of the region; the rules recognised the Congo basin as a free-trade zone. But Leopold II emerged triumphant from the Berlin Conference and his single-shareholder "philanthropic" organization received a large share of territory to be organized as the Congo Free State; the Congo Free State operated as a corporate state controlled by Leopold II through a non-governmental organization, the Association Internationale Africaine.
The state included the entire area of the present Democratic Republic of the Congo and existed from 1885 to 1908, when the government of Belgium reluctantly annexed the area. Under Leopold II's administration, the Congo Free State became a humanitarian disaster; the lack of accurate records makes it difficult to quantify the number of deaths caused by the ruthless exploitation and the lack of immunity to new diseases introduced by contact with European colonists – like the 1889–90 flu pandemic, which caused millions of deaths on the European continent, including Prince Baudouin of Belgium, who succumbed to the deadly virus in 1891. William Rubinstein wrote: "More it appears certain that the population figures given by Hochschild are inaccurate. There is, of course, no way of ascertaining the population of the Congo before the twentieth century, estimates like 20 million are purely guesses. Most of the interior of the Congo was unexplored if not inaccessible." Leopold's Force Publique, a private army that terrorized natives to work as forced labour for resource extraction, disrupted their societies and killed and abused natives indiscriminately.
April 5 - Bonanno crime family consigliere Anthony Spero was convicted of racketeering and ordering the murders of Louis Tuzzio, Paul Gulino and Vincent Bickelman. Spero had supervised a violent Bonanno crew out of a Bath Beach, Brooklyn social club for more than 20 years. April 12 - The Italian magazine L’Espresso puts Matteo Messina Denaro on the cover with the legend: Ecco il nuovo capo della mafia. November - Giovanni Riina, Sicilian mafioso and son of Salvatore Riina, convicted of committing four murders in 1995. December 6 - The U. S. Attorney's Office for the Eastern District of New York indicted members of the New Springville Boys gang from Staten Island, which prosecutors alleged was a mob farm team for the Bonanno and Colombo crime families; the crew was charged with burglarizing over 30 night-deposit boxes at banks across the country, netting $240,000, committing push-in robberies, loan sharking and money laundering. They were charged with hijacking a truckload of marijuana worth over $1 million, selling drugs in their neighborhood.
Members included leader Lee D'Avanzo, Ned Bilali, Robert Catanese, Randy Gordon, Francis Costanzo, William "Big Billy" Fauci, Joseph "Fat Joe" Gambino, Edward Shamah. Tadamasa Goto, the founding head of the Goto-gumi, a large affiliate of the largest known yakuza syndicate, the Yamaguchi-gumi, got a queue-jumping liver transplant at the UCLA Medical Center in Los Angeles after giving a donation to the Center and getting a special visa deal from the FBI; the 51st State starring Samuel L. Jackson and Robert Carlyle. Bandits Blow starring Johnny Depp, Penélope Cruz, Jordi Mollà, Cliff Curtis, Ethan Suplee and Ray Liotta The Cold Six Thousand by James Ellroy Corky Romano starring Chris Kattan, Chris Penn and Vincent Pastore; the Fast and the Furious Heist starring Gene Hackman and Danny DeVito. Knockaround Guys starring Barry Pepper, Seth Green, Vin Diesel and John Malkovich The Mexican starring Brad Pitt, Julia Roberts, Gene Hackman and James Gandolfini The Score Swordfish Training Day February 21 - Alfred Embarrato "Uncle Al", Bonanno crime family Capo October 22 - Raffaele Quasarano, Detroit crime syndicate leader and associate of Frank Costello and Frank Coppola
Alpha Circini is a variable star in the faint, circumpolar constellation of Circinus. At an apparent visual magnitude of 3.19, it is the brightest star in the constellation and can be seen with the naked eye from the southern hemisphere. Parallax measurements of this star yield an estimated distance of 54.0 light-years from the Earth. This star belongs to a class of variables known as oscillating Ap stars, it oscillates with a dominant cycle of 6.8 minutes. The spectrum shows peculiar features caused by chemical stratification of the outer atmosphere, it displays a moderate deficiency of carbon and oxygen, while there is an overabundance of chromium. The stellar classification of A7 Vp SrCrEu indicates that this is a main sequence star with enhanced levels of strontium and europium in its atmosphere; the mass of Alpha Circini is about 150% to 170% the mass of the Sun and it has double the Sun's radius, while the luminosity is more than 10 times that of the Sun. The effective temperature of the outer envelope is about 7,500 K, giving it the white hue typical of A-type stars.
It is rotating with a period of 4.5 days and the pole is inclined by about 37 ± 4° to the line of sight from the Earth. Based upon its location and motion through space, Alpha Circini is a candidate member of a stellar kinematic group known as the Beta Pictoris moving group; this group has an estimated age of about 12 million years. At the birth of this group, Alpha Circini was estimated to be located at a distance of about 91 ly from the center of the assemblage