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6 World Leaders and Their Pizza Stories

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It doesn’t matter if you’re working for minimum wage or you’re the leader of one of the most powerful countries in the world—no one is immune to the charms of pizza. (Except maybe the Dalai Lama.) Check out these six stories where pizza and power overlap.

Boris Yeltsin

During a series of interviews with Pulitzer Prize-winning author Taylor Branch, Bill Clinton revealed that Boris Yeltsin nearly created an international incident in 1995 because he wanted pizza so badly. The Russian president was staying at Blair House, the government’s guest quarters in Washington, D.C., when he decided he wanted a late-night pie. Instead of dialing Domino’s or asking staff to procure some pizza for him, Yeltsin himself wandered out onto Pennsylvania Avenue and tried to hail a cab, clad in nothing but his underwear. Secret Service agents found him before he was able to get his pizza. Yeltsin may have still been searching for the perfect slice the following night, when he escaped from his handlers to climb into the basement of Blair House, where he was originally mistaken for an intruder.

Mikhail Gorbachev

Another Russian leader raised eyebrows when he appeared in a commercial hawking food for Pizza Hut in 1997. Mikhail Gorbachev said he appeared in the ad to raise money for his Gorbachev Foundation, but also because he truly believes in the power of pizza: “It’s not only consumption, it’s also socializing. If I didn’t see that it was beneficial for people, I wouldn’t have agreed to it.” Citizens seemed less than impressed with Gorbachev’s spokesperson gig. “The next step will be to advertise Tampax,” one Russian told CNN at the time.

The Dalai Lama

In 2011, the Dalai Lama was doing an interview with an Australian news station. Naturally, one of the anchors thought it would be an opportune time to try a dad joke out on His Holiness: “The Dalai Lama walks into a pizza shop and says, ‘Can you make me one with everything?’” Crickets. The pun was lost in translation, although the Dalai Lama tried really hard to be gracious about it.

The Pope

Boris Yeltsin could have taken tips from Pope Francis, because this guy knows how to make a pizza delivery happen. Earlier this year, the Pope lamented that one of the only downsides of being il Papa is the lack of decent pizza. “The only thing I would like is to go out one day, without being recognized, and go to a pizzeria for a pizza,” he told Radio Vatican. Well, the Lord works in mysterious ways. While he didn’t get to go to an actual pizzeria, the Pope did get his wish when a pizza owner from Naples made an offering of dough and cheese to the papal motorcade. See it happen here.

Silvio Berlusconi

There’s no doubt about it—Italians obviously make fantastic pizza. But that doesn’t mean that it’s OK to mock the traditional cuisine of other countries, especially when you’re a world leader visiting said country. In 2005, Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi turned his nose up at Finnish food, saying that he had to “endure” it during his stay. A couple of years later, a Finnish chef took first place at the famous New York Pizza Show, besting two Italian chefs. Afterward, the chef named his award-winning creation “the Berlusconi.” The special topping? Smoked reindeer.

Kim Jong-il

Thanks to Kim Jong-il’s obsession with pizza, North Korea finally got its first pizzeria in 2009. Yes, 2009. “General Kim Jong-il said that the people should also be allowed access to the world’s famous dishes,” the restaurant’s manager said. It apparently took at least 10 years to find a recipe suitable for public consumption, because the dictator’s pizza enthusiasm began sometime back in the late 1990s, when he brought Italian pizza chefs to Pyongyang to teach army officers how to make the delicacy. It’s rumored that Jong-il himself stopped in to oversee the lessons. “I am not in the position to say whether it was really him,” one of the chefs later said. “But our chef, who had no reason to fib, was, for the space of several minutes, utterly speechless. He said he felt as if he had seen God, and I still envy him this experience."
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This Just In
Pablo Neruda's Death Wasn't Caused by Cancer, Experts Conclude
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Pablo Neruda—whose real name was Ricardo Eliecer Neftalí Reyes Basoalto—died on September 23, 1973, less than two years after he was awarded the 1971 Nobel Prize in Literature. The official cause of death was recorded as cancer cachexia, or wasting syndrome, from prostate cancer. But while Neruda did have cancer, new tests on his remains indicate that the left-leaning Chilean politician and poet didn’t actually succumb to the disease, according to BBC News.

It’s still unclear what, exactly, caused Neruda’s demise. But in a recent press conference, a team of 16 international experts announced that they were "100 percent convinced" that the author's death certificate "does not reflect the reality of the death,” as quoted by the BBC.

Neruda died in 1973 at the age of 69, less than two weeks after a military coup led by General Augusto Pinochet ousted the Marxist government of President Salvador Allende. Neruda, a Communist, was a former diplomat and senator, and a friend of the deposed politician.

In 2011, Manuel Araya, Neruda’s chauffeur, claimed that the poet had told him that Pinochet’s men had injected poison into his stomach as he was hospitalized during his final days, Nature reports. The Communist Party of Chile filed a criminal lawsuit, and Neruda’s remains were exhumed in 2013 and later reburied in 2016, according to the BBC.

Many of Neruda’s relatives and friends were reportedly skeptical of Araya’s account, as was the Pablo Neruda Foundation, according to The New York Times. But after samples of Neruda’s remains were analyzed by forensic genetics laboratories in four nations, Chile’s government acknowledged that it was “highly probable” that his official cause of death was incorrect.

And now, the team of scientists has unanimously ruled out cachexia as having caused Neruda’s death. “There was no indication of cachexia,” said Dr. Niels Morling, a forensic medical expert from the University of Copenhagen, as quoted by The Guardian. Neruda “was an obese man at the time of death. All other circumstances in his last phase of life pointed to some kind of infection.”

The investigating team says that their analysis yielded what might be lab-cultivated bacteria, although it could have also originated from the burial site or been produced during the body's decomposition process. Test results will be available within a year, they say.

[h/t BBC News]

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Art
Winston Churchill’s Final Painting Is Going to Auction for the First Time
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While serving as an influential statesman and writing Nobel Prize-winning histories, Winston Churchill also found time to paint. Now, The Telegraph reports that the final painting the former British prime minister ever committed to canvas is heading to the auction block.

The piece, titled The Goldfish Pool at Chartwell, depicts the pond at Churchill’s home in Kent, England, which has been characterized as his “most special place in the world.” A few years after the painting was finished, he passed away in 1965 and it fell into the possession of his former bodyguard, Sergeant Edmund Murray. Murray worked for Churchill for the 15 years leading up to the prime minister's death and often assisted with his painting by setting up his easel and brushes. After decades in the Murray family, Churchill’s final painting will be offered to the public for the first time at Sotheby’s Modern & Post-War British Art sale next month.

Winston Churchill's final painting.
Sotheby's

Churchill took up painting in the 1920s and produced an estimated 544 artworks in his lifetime. He never sold any of his art, but The Goldfish Pool at Chartwell shows that the hobby was an essential part of his life right up until his last years.

When the never-before-exhibited piece goes up for sale on November 21, it’s expected to attract bids up to $105,500. It won’t mark the first time an original Winston Churchill painting has made waves at auction: In a 2014, a 1932 depiction of his same beloved goldfish pond sold for over $2.3 million.

[h/t The Telegraph]

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