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What to Get the Woman Who Has (Stolen) Everything

Today we celebrate the 85th birthday of Imelda Marcos, the Steel Butterfly, widow of an ousted dictator. Her reputation precedes her: She was a collector of shoes and a friend of Richard Nixon's. She entertained Muammar al-Qaddafi in a "coconut palace" so opulent that Pope John Paul II refused to enter. Her family plundered $10 billion from the Philippines' coffers but her charm is such that no jury has ever convicted her; indeed, she's now a member of the Philippine legislature. She has gold, jewels, a thriving political dynasty, and -- even in her 80s -- a good deal of beauty left. So, what birthday gift could one possibly give to the woman who truly has everything?

1. The complete Sex and the City box set

Both Imelda Marcos and Carrie Bradshaw built their lives around "love and labels." Imelda was a profligate spender who believed that love conquered all, and that dressing well was a service to her nation. When a popular uprising forced her to flee the presidential palace and go into exile, she infamously left thousands of designer shoes behind.

It's kind of like that time in Season 4, when Carrie's boyfriend threatened to evict her if she didn't pony up a down payment for her apartment. She exclaimed to her friends: "'I've spent $40,000 on shoes and I have no place to live? I will literally be the old woman who lived in her shoes!" Imelda would so identify with that.

2. $8.5 million worth of jewels

More specifically, the $8.5 million worth of jewels that the Philippines government confiscated from Imelda on the grounds that she acquired them through graft. Imelda has, for years, pleaded for the return of the jewels, which include a 150-karat Burmese Ruby and a 30-karat Bulgari diamond bracelet, pouting that she is left with nothing but "junk." (Still, she rarely appears in public without an embarrassment of baubles.)

3. A private showing of David Byrne's "Revolutionary Musical Experience"

A woman with so much pizzazz clearly would inspire a biographical album. Her story spoke to acclaimed musician and former leader of the Talking Heads, David Byrne. "Here Lies Love," is now an immersive, theatrical show that chronicles the meteoric rise and ignominious downfall of the Steel Butterfly through song and dance. Unfortunately, the show has never been staged in the Philippines. So, what better way to celebrate its subject's birthday than to organize a private, remote performance? Imelda loves to dance, after all. 

4. A second chance at Malacanang Palace

Obviously, two decades spent living large in the presidential palace isn't enough for Imelda. On her birthday, she made clear to reporters that she's ready to move back in -- this time, with dowager status, and her son, Senator Ferdinand Marcos Jr., in the executive office. "I still have a vision and hope to bring more help to the Filipino people," she said. "Malacanang would be a great help." (It's worth noting that her family already controls the island of Leyte and that at least seven of her family members hold public office.)

5. A "hero's burial" for her husband

In birthday celebration, Imelda visited the tomb of her late husband, Ferdinand Marcos, whose body is preserved within a back-lit glass case inside a refrigerated mausoleum in his hometown. As pictured above, Imelda dramatically kissed the glass enshrining her beloved before saying that her real birthday wish is to give her husband a "hero's burial." Marcos died in exile and the Philippines refuses to interr his body in the cemetery where the country's other presidents are laid to rest. Imelda and her sons have lobbied for a "hero's burial" for years, with little luck. Still, a girl can dream.

Happy Birthday, Imelda.


TED ALJIBE/AFP/Getty Images

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Ukraine to Russia: #BringBackOurDolphins

When Russia took the Crimean peninsula from Ukraine, they also took the country's combat dolphins, which were stationed in a navy oceanarium in the Crimean city of Sevastopol. Now, Ukraine wants them back.

"The military dolphins need to be returned to our country in the same way that Russia returned Ukraine's seized military equipment," said Dmitry Yunusov, first deputy head of the Henichesk regional state administration, a district in southern Ukraine. On June 21, the Henichesk district opened a new dolphinarium that can host the dolphins. No word yet on whether Russia will return the mammals.

In an email to Foreign Policy, a spokesman for the Russian embassy declined to comment. The Ukrainian embassy did not respond to requests for comment.

Apart from being able to identify underwater obstacles, guide ships, and reportedly even attack enemy divers, the dolphins have doubled as a useful propaganda tool for Moscow since planting the Russian flag in Crimea. In March, the Russian news agency RIA Novosti reported that Russia would step up its dolphin combat operations with additional funding and new technology.

But the marine-life military buildup hasn't stopped there. In an April homage to the arms race of the Cold War, the Russian newspaper Izvestia fabricated a story that the U.S. Navy planned to deploy 20 military dolphins and 10 sea lions in the Black Sea to test new equipment. The Izvestia report went so far as to include a fictional quote from a U.S. Navy spokesman. Perhaps the reporter is pining for a mammalian military buildup in the Black Sea.

During the Cold War, both the U.S. and Soviet navies ran marine mammal programs. During the Gulf War, American dolphins were deployed in the Persian Gulf to protect American and Kuwaiti vessels. The American program continues but Ukraine's Soviet successor program struggled to stay afloat until Russia took the Crimean facilities in March.

So far neither the Ukrainian public nor other officials have taken up Yunusov's call to return the pilfered dolphins but keep your eyes peeled for the inevitable hashtag: #BringBackOurDolphins.

EPA/SERGEI ILNITSKY