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So you know when you’re ﬂopping about at home, minding your own business, drinking from your water bottle in a way that does not possess any intent to subvert the Commonwealth of Australia?
It’s a feeling I know all too well, and in which I was vigorously partaking when I got this message in “the group chat”.
A nice message from my friend, with a photo of a boarding pass 🙂 A good thing about messages from your friends is that they do not have any rippling consequences 🙂🙂🙂
The man in question is Tony Abbott, one of Australia’s many former Prime Ministers.
For security reasons, we try to change our Prime Minister every six months, and to never use the same Prime Minister on multiple websites.
This particular former PM had just posted a picture of his boarding pass on Instagram (Instagram, in case you don’t know it, is an app you can open up on your phone any time to look at ads).
The since-deleted Instagram post showing the boarding pass and baggage receipt. The caption reads “coming back home from japan 😍😍 looking forward to seeing everyone! climate change isn’t real 😌 ok byeee”
My friend (who we will refer to by their group chat name, 𝖍𝖔𝖌𝖌𝖊 𝖒𝖔𝖆𝖉𝖊) is asking whether I can “hack this man” not because I am the kind of person who regularly commits 𝒄𝒚𝒃𝒆𝒓 𝒕𝒓𝒆𝒂𝒔𝒐𝒏 on a whim, but because we’d recently been talking about boarding passes.
I’d said that people post pictures of their boarding passes all the time, not knowing that it can sometimes be used to get their passport number and stuff. They just post it being like “omg going on holidayyyy 😍😍😍”, unaware that they’re posting cringe.
People post their boarding passes all the time, because it’s not clear that they’re meant to be secret
Meanwhile, some hacker is rubbing their hands together, being all “yumyum identity fraud 👀” in their dark web Discord, because this happens a lot.
So there I was, making intense and meaningful eye contact with this chat bubble, asking me if I could “hack this man”.
Of course, my friend wasn’t actually asking me to hack the former Prime Minister.
I mean… what are you gonna do, not click it? Are you gonna let a link that’s like 50% advertising tracking ID tell you what to do? Wouldn’t you be curious?
The former Prime Minister had just posted his boarding pass. Was that bad? Was someone in danger? I didn’t know.
What I did know was: the least I could do for my country would be to have a casual browse 👀
So I had a bit of a casual browse, and got the picture of the boarding pass, and then…. I didn’t know what was supposed to happen after that.
Well, I’d heard that it’s bad to post your boarding pass online, because if you do, a bored 17 year-old Russian boy called “Katie-senpai” might somehow use it to commit identity fraud. But I don’t know anyone like that, so I just clumsily googled some stuff.
Eventually I found a blog post explaining that yes, pictures of boarding passes can indeed be used for Crimes. The part you wanna be looking at for all your criming needs is the barcode, because it’s got the “Booking Reference” (e.g. H8JA2A) in it.
Why do you want the booking reference? It’s one of the two things you need to log in to the airline website to manage your ﬂight.
The second one is your… last name. I was really hoping the second one would be like a password or something. But, no, it’s the booking reference the airline emails you and prints on your boarding pass. And it also lets you log in to the airline website?
That sounds suspiciously like a password to me, but like I’m still ﬁne to pretend it’s not if you are.
I’ve been practicing every morning at sunrise, but still can’t scan barcodes with my eyes. I had to settle for a barcode scanner app on my phone, but when I tried to scan the picture in the Instagram post, it didn’t work :((
Maybe I shouldn’t have blurred out the barcode ﬁrst
Well, maybe it wasn’t scanning because the picture was too blurry.
I spent around 15 minutes in an “enhance, ENHANCE” montage, ﬁddling around with the image, increasing the contrast, and so on. Despite the montage taking up way too much of the 22 minute episode, I couldn’t even get the barcode to scan.
After staring at this image for 15 minutes, I noticed the Booking Reference is just… printed on the baggage receipt.
But it did not prepare me for this.
After recovering from that emotional rollercoaster, I went to qantas.com.au, and clicked “Manage Booking”. In case you don’t know it because you live in a country with fast internet, Qantas is the main airline here in Australia.
Well, the login form was just… there, and it was asking for a Booking Reference and a last name. I had just ﬂawlessly read the Booking Reference from the boarding pass picture, and, well… I knew the last name.
I did hesitate for a split-second, but… no, I had to know.
The “Manage Booking” page, logged in as some guy called Anthony Abbott
Leave a comment if you really felt that.
I guess I was now logged the heck in as Tony Abbott? And for all I know, everyone else who saw his Instagram post was right there with me. It’s kinda wholesome, to imagine us all there together. But also probably suboptimal in a governmental sense.
I then just incredibly browsed the page, browsed it so hard.
I saw Tony Abbott’s name, ﬂight times, and Frequent Flyer number, but not really anything super secret-looking. Not gonna be committing any cyber treason with a Frequent Flyer number. The ﬂight was in the past, so I couldn’t change anything, either.
The page said the ﬂight had been booked by a travel agent, so I guessed some information would be missing because of that.
I clicked around and scrolled a considerable length, but still didn’t ﬁnd any government secrets.
Some people might give up here. But I, the Icarus of computers, was simply too dumb to know when to stop.
I wanted to see if there were juicy things hidden inside the page. To do it, I had to use the only hacker tool I know.
Right click > Inspect Element, all you need to subvert the Commonwealth of Australia
Listen. This is the only part of the story that might be confused for highly elite computer skill. It’s not, though. Maybe later someone will show you this same thing to try and ﬂex, acting like only they know how to do it. You will not go gently into that good night. You will refuse to acknowledge their ﬂex, killing them instantly.
“Inspect Element”, as it’s called, is a feature of Google Chrome that lets you see the computer’s internal representation (HTML) of the page you’re looking at. Kinda like opening up a clock and looking at the cool cog party inside.
Everything you see when you use “Inspect Element” was already downloaded to your computer, you just hadn’t asked Chrome to show it to you yet. Just like how the cogs were already in the watch, you just hadn’t opened it up to look.
But let us dispense with frivolous cog talk. Cheap tricks such as “Inspect Element” are used by programmers to try and understand how the website works. This is ultimately futile: Nobody can understand how websites work. Unfortunately, it kinda looks like hacking the ﬁrst time you see it.
If you’d like to know more about it, I’ve prepared a short video.
hey youtube welcome to my hacking tutorial, today we’re gonna hack…. the nsa pic.twitter.com/2Z35GJjSZE— “Alex” (@mangopdf) May 1, 2019
I scrolled around the page’s HTML, not really knowing what it meant, furiously trying to ﬁnd anything that looked out of place or secret.
I eventually realised that manually reading HTML with my eyes was not an efﬁcient way of defending my country, and Ctrl + F’d the HTML for “passport”.
At this point I was fairly sure I was looking at the extremely secret government-issued ID of the 28th Prime Minister of the Commonwealth of Australia, servant to her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II and I was kinda worried that I was somehow doing something wrong, but like, not enough to stop.
Well damn, if Tony Abbott’s passport number is in this treasure trove of computer spaghetti, maybe there’s wayyyyy more. Perhaps this HTML contains the lost launch codes to the Sydney Opera House, or Harold Holt.
Searching for phone and number didn’t get anywhere, so I searched for 614, the ﬁrst 3 digits of an Australian phone number, using my colossal and highly celestial galaxy brain.
A weird pile of what I could only describe as extremely uppercase letters came up. It looked like this:
So, there’s a lot going on here. There is indeed a phone number in here. But what the heck is all this other stuff?
I realised this was like… Qantas staff talking to eachother about Tony Abbott, but not to him?
In what is surely the subtweeting of the century, it has a section saying HITOMI CALLED RQSTING FASTTRACK FOR MR. ABBOTT. Hitomi must be requesting a “fasttrack” (I thought that was only a thing in movies???) from another Qantas employee.
What is even going on here? Why do Qantas ﬂight staff talk to eachother via this passenger information ﬁeld? Why do they send these messages, and your passport number to you when you log in to their website? I’ll never know because I suddenly got distracted with
I realised the allcaps muesli I saw must be some airline code for something. Furious and intense googling led me to several ancient forbidden PDFs that explained some of the codes.
Apparently, they’re called “SSR codes” (Special Service Request). There are codes for things like “Vegetarian lacto-ovo meal” (VLML), “Vegetarian oriental meal” (VOML), and even “Vegetarian vegan meal” (VGML). Because I was curious about these codes, here’s some for you to be curious about too (tag urself, I’m UMNR):
The phone number I found looked like this: CTCM QF HK1 [phone number]. Googling “SSR CTCM” led me to the developer guide for some kind of airline association, which I assume I am basically a member of now.
I thought maybe the phone number belonged to the travel agency, but I checked and it has to be the passenger’s real phone number. That would be, if my calculations are correct,,,, *steeples ﬁngers* Tony Abbott’s phone number.
My friend who messaged me had no idea.
Tony Abbott’s passport is probably a Diplomatic passport, which is used to “represent the Australian Government overseas in an ofﬁcial capacity”.
By this point I’d had enough defending my country, and had recently noticed some new thoughts in my brain, which were:
* oh jeez oh boy oh jeez
* i gotta get someone, somehow, to reset tony abbott’s passport number
* can you even reset passport numbers
* is it possible that i’ve done a crime
In this act, I, your well-meaning but ultimately incompetent protagonist, attempt to do the following things:
* ⬜ ﬁgure out whether i have done a crime
* ⬜ notify someone (tony abbott?) that this happened
* ⬜ get permission to publish this here blog post
* ⬜ tell qantas about the security issue so they can ﬁx it
Spoilers: This takes almost six months.
I contacted a lot of people about this. If my calculations are correct, I called at least 30 phone numbers, to say nothing of The Emails. If you laid all the people I contacted end to end along the equator, they would die, and you would be arrested. Eventually I started keeping track of who I talked to in a note I now refer to as “the hashtag struggle”.
I’m gonna skip a considerable volume of tedious and ultimately unsatisfying telephony, because it’s been a long day of scrolling already, and you need to save your strength.
Alright strap yourself in and enjoy as I am drop-kicked through the goal posts of life.
I didn’t think anything I did sounded like a crime, but I knew that sometimes when the other person is rich or famous, things can suddenly become crimes. Like, was there going to be some Monarch Law or something? Was Queen Elizabeth II gonna be mad about this?
My usual defence against being arrested for hacking is making sure the person being hacked is okay with it. You heard me, it’s the power of ✨consent✨. But this time I could uh only get it in retrospect, which is a bit yikes.
So I was wondering like… was logging in with someone else’s booking reference a crime? Was having someone else’s passport number a crime? What if they were, say, the former Prime Minister? Would I get in trouble for publishing a blog post about it? I mean you’re reading the blog post right now so obviousl
It turned out I could just google these things, and before I knew it I was reading “the legislation”. It’s the rules of the law, just written down.
Look, reading pages of HTML? No worries. Especially if it’s to defend my country. But whoever wrote the legislation was just making up words.
Eventually, I was able to divine the following wisdoms from the Times New Roman tea leaves:
* Defamation is where you get in trouble for publishing something that makes someone look bad.
But, it’s ﬁne for me to blog about it, since it’s not defamation if you can prove it’s true
* But, it’s ﬁne for me to blog about it, since it’s not defamation if you can prove it’s true
* Having Tony Abbott’s passport number isn’t a crime
But using it to commit identity fraud would be
* But using it to commit identity fraud would be
* There are laws about what it’s okay to do on a computer
The things it’s okay to do are: If u EVER even LOOK at a computer the wrong way, the FBI will instantly slam dunk you in a legal fashion dependent on the legislation in your area
* The things it’s okay to do are: If u EVER even LOOK at a computer the wrong way, the FBI will instantly slam dunk you in a legal fashion dependent on the legislation in your area
I am possibly the furthest thing you can be from a lawyer. So, I’m sure I don’t need to tell you not to take this as legal advice. But, if you are the kind of person who takes legal advice from mango blog posts, who am I to stand in your way? Not a lawyer, that’s who. Don’t do it.
You know what, maybe I needed help. From an adult. Someone whose 3-year old kid has been buying iPad apps for months because their parents can’t ﬁgure out how to turn it off.
“Yeah, maybe I should get some of that free government legal advice”, I thought to myself, legally. That seemed like a pretty common thing, so I thought it should be easy to do. I took a big sip of water and googled “free legal advice”.
Before I went and told everyone about my HTML frolicking, I spent a week calling legal aid numbers, lawyers, and otherwise trying to ﬁgure out if I’d done a crime.
During this time, I didn’t tell anyone what I’d done. I asked if any laws would be broken if “someone” had “logged into a website with someone’s publicly-posted password and found the personal information of a former politician”. Do you see how that’s not even a lie? I’m starting to see how lawyers do it.
First I call the state government’s Legal Aid number. They tell me they don’t do that here, and I should call another Legal Aid place named something slightly different.
The second place tells me they don’t do that either, and I should call the First Place and “hopefully you get someone more senior”.
Follow NPR’s coverage of Ginsburg’s death and the political aftermath here.
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the demure ﬁrebrand who in her 80s became a legal, cultural and feminist icon, died Friday. The Supreme Court announced her death, saying the cause was complications from metastatic cancer of the pancreas.
The court, in a statement, said Ginsburg died at her home in Washington, D. C., surrounded by family. She was 87.
“Our nation has lost a justice of historic stature,” Chief Justice John Roberts said. “We at the Supreme Court have lost a cherished colleague. Today we mourn but with conﬁdence that future generations will remember Ruth Bader Ginsburg as we knew her, a tireless and resolute champion of justice.”
Architect of the legal ﬁght for women’s rights in the 1970s, Ginsburg subsequently served 27 years on the nation’s highest court, becoming its most prominent member. Her death will inevitably set in motion what promises to be a nasty and tumultuous political battle over who will succeed her, and it thrusts the Supreme Court vacancy into the spotlight of the presidential campaign.
Just days before her death, as her strength waned, Ginsburg dictated this statement to her granddaughter Clara Spera: “My most fervent wish is that I will not be replaced until a new president is installed.”
She knew what was to come. Ginsburg’s death will have profound consequences for the court and the country. Inside the court, not only is the leader of the liberal wing gone, but with the court about to open a new term, the chief justice no longer holds the controlling vote in closely contested cases.
Though Roberts has a consistently conservative record in most cases, he has split from fellow conservatives in a few important ones this year, casting his vote with liberals, for instance, to protect at least temporarily the so-called DREAMers from deportation by the Trump administration, to uphold a major abortion precedent and to uphold bans on large church gatherings during the coronavirus pandemic. But with Ginsburg gone, there is no clear court majority for those outcomes.
Indeed, a week after the upcoming presidential election, the court is for the third time scheduled to hear a challenge brought by Republicans to the Affordable Care Act, known as Obamacare. In 2012, the high court upheld the law in a 5-4 ruling, with Roberts casting the deciding vote and writing the opinion for the majority. But this time the outcome may well be different.
That’s because Ginsburg’s death gives Republicans the chance to tighten their grip on the court with another appointment by President Trump so conservatives would have 6-3 majority. And that would mean that even a defection on the right would leave conservatives with enough votes to prevail in the Obamacare case and many others.
At the center of the battle to achieve that will be Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. In 2016, he took a step unprecedented in modern times: He refused for nearly a year to allow any consideration of President Barack Obama’s Supreme Court nominee.
Back then, McConnell’s justiﬁcation was the upcoming presidential election, which he said would allow voters a chance to weigh in on what kind of justice they wanted. But now, with the tables turned, McConnell has made clear he will not follow the same course. Instead he will try immediately to push through a Trump nominee so as to ensure a conservative justice to ﬁll Ginsburg’s liberal shoes, even if Trump were to lose his reelection bid. Asked what he would do in circumstances such as these, McConnell said: “Oh, we’d ﬁll it.”
So what happens in the coming weeks will be bare-knuckle politics, writ large, on the stage of a presidential election. It will be a ﬁght Ginsburg had hoped to avoid, telling Justice John Paul Stevens shortly before his death that she hoped to serve as long as he did — until age 90.
“My dream is that I will stay on the court as long as he did,” she said in an interview in 2019.
She didn’t quite make it. But Ruth Bader Ginsburg was nonetheless a historic ﬁgure. She changed the way the world is for American women. For more than a decade, until her ﬁrst judicial appointment in 1980, she led the ﬁght in the courts for gender equality. When she began her legal crusade, women were treated, by law, differently from men. Hundreds of state and federal laws restricted what women could do, barring them from jobs, rights and even from jury service. By the time she donned judicial robes, however, Ginsburg had worked a revolution.
That was never more evident than in 1996 when, as a relatively new Supreme Court justice, Ginsburg wrote the court’s 7-1 opinion declaring that the Virginia Military Institute could no longer remain an all-male institution. True, Ginsburg said, most women — indeed most men — would not want to meet the rigorous demands of VMI. But the state, she said, could not exclude women who could meet those demands.
“Reliance on overbroad generalizations … estimates about the way most men or most women are, will not sufﬁce to deny opportunity to women whose talent and capacity place them outside the average description,” Ginsburg wrote.
She was an unlikely pioneer, a diminutive and shy woman, whose soft voice and large glasses hid an intellect and attitude that, as one colleague put it, was “tough as nails.”
By the time she was in her 80s, she had become something of a rock star to women of all ages. She was the subject of a hit documentary, a biopic, an operetta, merchandise galore featuring her “Notorious RBG” moniker, a Time magazine cover and regular Saturday Night Live sketches.
On one occasion in 2016, Ginsburg got herself into trouble and later publicly apologized for disparaging remarks she made about then-presidential candidate Trump.
But for the most part Ginsburg enjoyed her fame and maintained a sense of humor about herself.
Asked about the fact that she had apparently fallen asleep during the 2015 State of the Union address, Ginsburg did not take the Fifth, admitting that although she had vowed not to drink at dinner with the other justices before the speech, the wine had just been too good to resist. The result, she said, was that she was perhaps not an entirely “sober judge” and kept nodding off.
Born in Brooklyn, Ruth Bader went to public schools, where she excelled as a student — and as a baton twirler. By all accounts, it was her mother who was the driving force in her young life, but Celia Bader died of cancer the day before the future justice would graduate from high school.
Then 17, Ruth Bader went on to Cornell University on a full scholarship, where she met Martin (aka “Marty”) Ginsburg. “What made Marty so overwhelmingly attractive to me was that he cared that I had a brain,” she said.
After her graduation, they were married and went off to Fort Sill, Okla., for his military service. There Mrs. Ginsburg, despite scoring high on the civil service exam, could only get a job as a typist, and when she became pregnant, she lost even that job.
Two years later, the couple returned to the East Coast to attend Harvard Law School. She was one of only nine women in a class of more than 500 and found the dean asking her why she was taking up a place that “should go to a man.”
At Harvard, she was the academic star, not her husband. The couple were busy juggling schedules and their toddler when Marty Ginsburg was diagnosed with testicular cancer. Surgeries and aggressive radiation followed.
“So that left Ruth with a 3-year-old child, a fairly sick husband, the law review, classes to attend and feeding me,” Marty Ginsburg said in a 1993 interview with NPR.
The experience also taught the future justice that sleep was a luxury. During the year of her husband’s illness, he was only able to eat late at night; after that he would dictate his senior class paper to her. At about 2 a.m., he would go back to sleep, Ruth Bader Ginsburg recalled in an NPR interview. “Then I’d take out the books and start reading what I needed to be prepared for classes the next day.”
Marty Ginsburg survived, graduated and got a job in New York; his wife, a year behind him in school, transferred to Columbia, where she graduated at the top of her law school class. Despite her academic achievements, the doors to law ﬁrms were closed to women, and though recommended for a Supreme Court clerkship, she wasn’t even interviewed.
It was bad enough that she was a woman, she recalled later, but she was also a mother, and male judges worried she would be diverted by her “familial obligations.”
A mentor, law professor Gerald Gunther, ﬁnally got her a clerkship in New York by promising Judge Edmund Palmieri that if she couldn’t do the work, he would provide someone who could. That was “the carrot,” Ginsburg would say later. “The stick” was that Gunther, who regularly fed his best students to Palmieri, told the judge that if he didn’t take Ginsburg, Gunther would never send him a clerk again. The Ginsburg clerkship apparently was a success; Palmieri kept her not for the usual one year, but two, from 1959-61.
Ginsburg’s next path is rarely talked about, mainly because it doesn’t ﬁt the narrative. She learned Swedish so she could work with Anders Bruzelius, a Swedish civil procedure scholar. Through the Columbia University School of Law Project on International Procedure, Ginsburg and Bruzelius co-authored a book.
In 1963, Ginsburg ﬁnally landed a teaching job at Rutgers Law School, where she at one point hid her second pregnancy by wearing her mother-in-law’s clothes. The ruse worked; her contract was renewed before her baby was born.
While at Rutgers, she began her work ﬁghting gender discrimination.
Her ﬁrst big case was a challenge to a law that barred a Colorado man named Charles Moritz from taking a tax deduction for the care of his 89-year-old mother. The IRS said the deduction, by statute, could only be claimed by women, or widowed or divorced men. But Moritz had never married.
The tax court concluded that the Internal Revenue Code was immune to constitutional challenge, a notion that tax lawyer Marty Ginsburg viewed as “preposterous.” The two Ginsburgs took on the case — he from the tax perspective, she from the constitutional one.
According to Marty Ginsburg, for his wife, this was the “mother brief.” She had to think through all the issues and how to ﬁx the inequity. The solution was to ask the court not to invalidate the statute but to apply it equally to both sexes. She won in the lower courts.
“Amazingly,” he recalled in a 1993 NPR interview, the government petitioned the U. S. Supreme Court, stating that the decision “cast a cloud of unconstitutionality” over literally hundreds of federal statutes, and it attached a list of those statutes, which it compiled with Defense Department computers.
Those laws, Marty Ginsburg added, “were the statutes that my wife then litigated … to overturn over the next decade.”
In 1971, she would write her ﬁrst Supreme Court brief in the case of Reed v. Reed. Ruth Bader Ginsburg represented Sally Reed, who thought she should be the executor of her son’s estate instead of her ex-husband.
The constitutional issue was whether a state could automatically prefer men over women as executors of estates. The answer from the all-male Supreme Court: no.
It was the ﬁrst time the court had struck down a state law because it discriminated based on gender.
And that was just the beginning.
By then Ginsburg was earning quite a reputation. She would become the ﬁrst female tenured professor at Columbia Law School, and she would found the Women’s Rights Project at the American Civil Liberties Union.
As the chief architect of the battle for women’s legal rights, Ginsburg devised a strategy that was characteristically cautious, precise and single-mindedly aimed at one goal: winning.
Knowing that she had to persuade male, establishment-oriented judges, she often picked male plaintiffs, and she liked Social Security cases because they illustrated how discrimination against women can harm men. For example, in Weinberger v. Wiesenfeld, she represented a man whose wife, the principal breadwinner, died in childbirth. The husband sought survivor’s beneﬁts to care for his child, but under the then-existing Social Security law, only widows, not widowers, were entitled to such beneﬁts.
“This absolute exclusion, based on gender per se, operates to the disadvantage of female workers, their surviving spouses, and their children,” Ginsburg told the justices at oral argument. The Supreme Court would ultimately agree, as it did in ﬁve of the six cases she argued.
Over the years, Ginsburg would ﬁle dozens of briefs seeking to persuade the courts that the 14th Amendment guarantee of equal protection applies not just to racial and ethnic minorities but to women as well.
In an interview with NPR, she explained the legal theory that she eventually sold to the Supreme Court.
“The words of the 14th Amendment’s equal protection clause — ‘nor shall any state deny to any person the equal protection of the laws.’ Well that word, ‘any person,’ covers women as well as men. And the Supreme Court woke up to that reality in 1971,” Ginsburg said.
During these pioneering years, Ginsburg would often work through the night as she had during law school. But by this time, she had two children, and she later liked to tell a story about the lesson she learned when her son, in grade school, seemed to have a proclivity for getting into trouble.
The scrapes were hardly major, and Ginsburg grew exasperated by demands from school administrators that she come in to discuss her son’s alleged misbehavior. Finally, there came a day when she had had enough. “I had stayed up all night the night before, and I said to the principal, ‘This child has two parents. Please alternate calls.’ ”
After that, she found, the calls were few and far between. It seemed, she said, that most infractions were not worth calling a busy husband about.
In 1980, President Jimmy Carter named Ginsburg to the U. S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. Over the next 13 years, she would amass a record as something of a centrist liberal, and in 1993, President Bill Clinton nominated her to the Supreme Court, the second woman appointed to the position.
She was not ﬁrst on his list. For months, Clinton ﬂirted with other potential nominees, and some women’s rights activists withheld their active support because they were worried about Ginsburg’s views on abortion. She had been publicly critical of the legal reasoning in Roe v. Wade.
But in the background, Marty Ginsburg was lobbying hard for his wife. And ﬁnally Ruth Ginsburg was invited for a meeting with the president. As one White House ofﬁcial put it afterward, Clinton “fell for her — hook, line and sinker.” So did the Senate. She was conﬁrmed by a 96-3 vote.
Once on the court, Ginsburg was an example of a woman who deﬁed stereotypes. Though she looked tiny and frail, she rode horses well into her 70s and even went parasailing. At home, it was her husband who was the chef, indeed a master chef, while the justice cheerfully acknowledged she was an awful cook.
Though a liberal, she and the court’s conservative icon, Antonin Scalia, who died in 2016, were the closest of friends. Indeed, an opera called Scalia/Ginsburg is based on their legal disagreements, and their affection for each other.
Over the years, as Ginsburg’s place on the court grew in seniority, so did her role. In 2006, as the court veered right after the retirement of Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, Ginsburg dissented more often and more assertively, her most passionate dissents coming in women’s rights cases.
Dissenting in Ledbetter v. Goodyear in 2007, she called on Congress to pass legislation that would override a court decision that drastically limited back pay available for victims of employment discrimination. The resulting legislation was the ﬁrst bill passed in 2009 after Obama took ofﬁce.
In 2014, she dissented ﬁercely in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby, a decision that allowed some for-proﬁt companies to refuse, on religious grounds, to comply with a federal mandate to cover birth control in health care plans. Such an exemption, she said, would “deny legions of women who do not hold their employers’ beliefs, access to contraceptive coverage.”
Where, she asked, “is the stopping point?” Suppose it offends an employer’s religious belief “to pay the minimum wage” or “to accord women equal pay?”
And in 2013, when the court struck down a key provision of the Voting Rights Act, contending that times had changed and the law was no longer needed, Ginsburg dissented. She said that throwing out the provision “when it has worked and is continuing to work … is like throwing away your umbrella in a rainstorm because you are not getting wet.”
She viewed her dissents as a chance to persuade a future court.
“Some of my favorite opinions are dissenting opinions,” Ginsburg told NPR. “I will not live to see what becomes of them, but I remain hopeful.”
And yet, Ginsburg still managed some unexpected victories by winning over one or two of the conservative justices in important cases. In 2015, for example, she authored the court’s decision upholding independent redistricting commissions established by voter referenda as a way of removing some of the partisanship in drawing legislative district lines.
Ginsburg always kept a backbreaking schedule of public appearances both at home and abroad, even after ﬁve bouts with cancer: colon cancer in 1999, pancreatic cancer 10 years later, lung cancer in 2018, and then pancreatic cancer again in 2019 and liver lesions in 2020. During that time, she endured chemotherapy, radiation and, in the last years of her life, terrible pain from shingles that never went away completely. All who knew her admired her grit. In 2009, three weeks after major cancer surgery, she surprised everyone when she showed up for the State of the Union address.
Shortly after that, she was back on the bench; it was her husband, Marty, who told her she could do it, even when she thought she could not, she told NPR.
A year later her psychological toughness was on full display when her beloved husband of 56 years was mortally ill. As she packed up his things at the hospital before taking him home to die, she found a note he had written to her. “My Dearest Ruth,” it began, “You are the only person I have ever loved,” setting aside children and family. “I have admired and loved you almost since the day we ﬁrst met at Cornell. … The time has come for me to … take leave of life because the loss of quality simply overwhelms. I hope you will support where I come out, but I understand you may not. I will not love you a jot less.”
Shortly after that, Marty Ginsburg died at home. The next day, his wife, the justice, was on the bench, reading an important opinion she had authored for the court. She was there, she said, because “Marty would have wanted it.”
Years later, she would read the letter aloud in an NPR interview, and at the end, choke down the tears.
In the years after Marty’s death, she would persevere without him, maintaining a jam-packed schedule when she was not on the bench or working on opinions.
Some liberals criticized her for not retiring while Obama was president, but she was at the top of her game, enjoyed her work enormously and feared that Republicans might not conﬁrm a successor. She was an avid consumer of opera, literature and modern art. But in the end, it was her work, she said, that sustained her.
“I do think that I was born under a very bright star,” she said in an NPR interview. “Because if you think about my life, I get out of law school. I have top grades. No law ﬁrm in the city of New York will hire me. I end up teaching; it gave me time to devote to the movement for evening out the rights of women and men.”
And it was that legal crusade for women’s rights that ultimately led to her appointment to the U. S. Supreme Court.
To the end of her tenure, she remained a special kind of feminist, both decorous and dogged.
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Exclusive: The Billionaire Who Wanted To Die Broke . . . Is Now Ofﬁcially BrokeIt took decades, but Chuck Feeney, the former billionaire cofounder of retail giant Duty Free Shoppers has ﬁnally given all his money away to charity. He has nothing left now—and he couldn’t be happier.
harles “Chuck” Feeney, 89, who cofounded airport retailer Duty Free Shoppers with Robert Miller in 1960, amassed billions while living a life of monklike frugality. As a philanthropist, he pioneered the idea of Giving While Living—spending most of your fortune on big, hands-on charity bets instead of funding a foundation upon death. Since you can’t take it with you—why not give it all away, have control of where it goes and see the results with your own eyes?
“We learned a lot. We would do some things differently, but I am very satisﬁed. I feel very good about completing this on my watch,” Feeney tells Forbes. “My thanks to all who joined us on this journey. And to those wondering about Giving While Living: Try it, you’ll like it.”
Over the last four decades, Feeney has donated more than $8 billion to charities, universities and foundations worldwide through his foundation, the Atlantic Philanthropies. When I ﬁrst met him in 2012, he estimated he had set aside about $2 million for his and his wife’s retirement. In other words, he’s given away 375,000% more money than his current net worth. And he gave it away anonymously. While many wealthy philanthropists enlist an army of publicists to trumpet their donations, Feeney went to great lengths to keep his gifts secret. Because of his clandestine, globe-trotting philanthropy campaign, Forbes called him the James Bond of Philanthropy.
But Feeney has come in from the cold. The man who amassed a fortune selling luxury goods to tourists, and later launched private equity powerhouse General Atlantic, lives in an apartment in San Francisco that has the austerity of a freshman dorm room. When I visited a few years ago, inkjet-printed photos of friends and family hung from the walls over a plain, wooden table. On the table sat a small Lucite plaque that read: “Congratulations to Chuck Feeney for $8 billion of philanthropic giving.”
That’s Feeney—understated proﬁle, oversize impact. No longer a secret, his extreme charity and big-bet grants have won over the most inﬂuential entrepreneurs and philanthropists. His stark generosity and gutsy investments inﬂuenced Bill Gates and Warren Buffett when they launched the Giving Pledge in 2010—an aggressive campaign to convince the world’s wealthiest to give away at least half their fortunes before their deaths. “Chuck was a cornerstone in terms of inspiration for the Giving Pledge,” says Warren Buffett. “He’s a model for us all. It’s going to take me 12 years after my death to get done what he’s doing within his lifetime.”
Feeney gave big money to big problems—whether bringing peace to Northern Ireland, modernizing Vietnam’s health care system, or spending $350 million to turn New York’s long-neglected Roosevelt Island into a technology hub. He didn’t wait to grant gifts after death or set up a legacy fund that annually tosses pennies at a $10 problem. He hunted for causes where he can have a dramatic impact and went all-in.
In 2019, I worked with the Atlantic Philanthropies on a report titled Zero Is the Hero, which summarized Feeney’s decades of go-for-broke giving. While it contains hundreds of numbers, stats and data points, Feeney summarized his mission in a few sentences. “I see little reason to delay giving when so much good can be achieved through supporting worthwhile causes. Besides, it’s a lot more fun to give while you live than give while you’re dead.”
On September 14, 2020, Chuck Feeney—with wife Helga Feeney—signed documents in San Francisco marking the close of the Atlantic Philanthropies after four decades of global giving.
On September 14, 2020, Feeney completed his four-decade mission and signed the documents to shutter the Atlantic Philanthropies. The ceremony, which happened over Zoom with the Atlantic Philanthropies’ board, included video messages from Bill Gates and former California Gov. Jerry Brown. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi sent an ofﬁcial letter from the U. S. Congress thanking Feeney for his work.
At its height, the Atlantic Philanthropies had 300-plus employees and ten global ofﬁces across seven time zones. The speciﬁc closure date was set years ago as part of his long-term plan to make high-risk, high-impact donations by setting a hard deadline to give away all his money and close shop. The 2020 expiration date added urgency and discipline. It gave the Atlantic Philanthropies the time to document its history, reﬂect on wins and losses and create a strategy for other institutions to follow. As Feeney told me in 2019: “Our giving is based on the opportunities, not a plan to stay in business for a long time.”
While his philanthropy is out of business, its inﬂuence reverberates worldwide thanks to its big bets on health, science, education and social action. Where did $8 billion go? Feeney gave $3.7 billion to education, including nearly $1 billion to his alma mater, Cornell, which he attended on the G.I. Bill. More than $870 million went to human rights and social change, like $62 million in grants to abolish the death penalty in the U.S. and $76 million for grassroots campaigns supporting the passage of Obamacare. He gave more than $700 million in gifts to health ranging from a $270 million grant to improve public healthcare in Vietnam to a $176 million gift to the Global Brain Health Institute at the University of California, San Francisco.
One of Feeney’s ﬁnal gifts, $350 million for Cornell to build a technology campus on New York City’s Roosevelt Island, is a classic example of his giving philosophy. While notoriously frugal in his own life, Feeney was ready to spend big and go for broke when the value and potential impact outweighed the risk.
FORBES spoke to Inﬂuential Philanthropists On How Chuck Feeney Changed Charity And Inspired Giving
“Chuck’s been the model for us all. If you have the right heroes in life, you’re 90% of the way home. Chuck Feeney is a good hero to have.”
“Chuck Feeney is a true pioneer. Spending down his resources during his lifetime has inspired a generation of philanthropists, including me. And his dedication to anonymous giving—and focus on addressing the problems of the day—reﬂect the strength of his character and social conscience. We all follow in his footsteps.”
“Chuck created a path for other philanthropists to follow. I remember meeting him before starting the Giving Pledge. He told me we should encourage people not to give just 50%, but as much as possible during their lifetime. No one is a better example of that than Chuck. Many people talk to me about how he inspired them. It is truly amazing.”
“Chuck took giving to a bigger extreme than anyone. There’s a lot of rich people—very few of them ﬂy coach. He never spent the money on himself and gave everything away. A lot of people are now understanding the importance of giving it away, and the importance of being involved in the things you give your money to. But I don’t ﬂy coach!”
“Chuck pioneered the model where giving ﬁnishes late in life, rather than starting. He was able to be more aggressive, he was able to take bigger risks and just get more enjoyment from his giving. There’s great power in giving while living. The longer the distance between the person who funded the philanthropy and the work, the greater the risk of it becoming bureaucratic and institutional—that’s the death knell for philanthropy.”
PHOTO CREDITS: WARREN BUFFETT, BILL GATES AND SANDY WEILL BY MARTIN SHOELLER FOR FORBES; LAURENE POWELL JOBS BY BRIGITTE LACOMBE; JOHN ARNOLD: COURTESY OF ARNOLD VENTURES
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In a recent discussion on
Hacker News, a commenter posted
the following question:
I considered replying in the thread, but I think it deserves an in-depth
answer — and one which will be seen by more people than would notice
a reply in the middle of a 100+ comment thread.
First, to dispense with the philosophical argument: Yes, this is my life, and yes, I’m free to use — or waste — it however I please; but I don’t think there’s anything wrong with asking if this is how my time could be best spent. That applies doubly if the question is not merely about the choices I made but is rather a broader question: Is our society structured in a way which encourages people to make less than the greatest contribution they could?
That said, I do object somewhat to the premise of the question — specifically the statement that I “spent [my] time on backups”.
On one hand, it is true:
has been my full time job since 2006. I do occasional consulting — more in the early years than I have recently — but ﬁnancially speaking that’s a rounding error; it’s Tarsnap which pays the bills (including allowing me to buy the house which I’ll be moving into next week). On the other hand: My work on Tarsnap has extended considerably into adjacent ﬁelds.
In 2009, having had many users ask for passphrase-protected Tarsnap key ﬁles, and having determined that the current state of the art of password based key derivation was sorely lacking, I invented
scrypt — and in the process, opened up a whole new ﬁeld of cryptography. Sure, I was doing this because it was something I could do to make Tarsnap more secure; but it would be a stretch to place this under the umbrella of “spending my time working on backups”.
In 2011, wanting to connect daemons on disparate hosts together securely, and not being happy with the existing TLS-based options, I wrote
spiped. While I think it remains largely underappreciated by the world at large, I nonetheless consider it a significant contribution to computer security — and, like scrypt, while I created it to serve Tarsnap’s needs, it would be a stretch to place such a general-purpose open-source tool under the narrow umbrella of “working on backups”.
Around the same time, I started working on
kivaloo, my high performance key-value data store. This may be the least used of all of the software I’ve written — I’m not aware of anyone else using it at present (although being open source software that doesn’t necessarily preclude the possibility) — but I consider it to be some of my best code and I think it may become used in more niches than merely Tarsnap in the future.
Starting in 2006, and accelerating significantly after Amazon launched the “M3” family of HVM-enabled EC2 instances in 2012,
been creating and maintaining the FreeBSD/EC2 platform. While I don’t have any precise statistics on its usage, a survey last year found that
44% of people
running FreeBSD in the cloud use Amazon EC2; so — despite the fact that only 22 people currently
provide sponsorship for my efforts
— it’s clear that my work here has been productive. Again, while I was working on this because I wanted to run FreeBSD in EC2 for Tarsnap, I don’t think it can be placed entirely into the category of “working on backups”.
Of course, the question at hand isn’t whether I’ve done anything useful, but rather whether this was the most useful way I could have spent these years. Judging by the reference to the
Problems, I imagine that the speciﬁc alternative they had in mind was a research career; indeed, between my Undergraduate studies in number theory under the late Peter Borwein and my Doctoral studies in Oxford I might have considered seriously working on the
and Swinnerton-Dyer conjecture had my life taken a different path. (A very different BSD from the one with which I am currently involved!)
So why am I not an academic? There are many factors, and starting Tarsnap is certainly one; but most of them can be summarized as “academia is a lousy place to do novel research”. In 2005, I made the ﬁrst publication of the use of shared caches in multi-threaded CPUs as a cryptographic side channel, and in 2006 I hoped to continue that work. Having recently received my doctorate from Oxford University and returned home to Canada, I was eligible for a post-doctoral fellowship from Canada’s
National Sciences and Engineering
Research Council, so I applied, and… I didn’t get it. My supervisor cautioned me of the risks of doing work which was overly novel as a young academic: Committees don’t know what to make of you, and they don’t have any reputational prior to fall back upon. Indeed, I ran into this issue with my side channel attack: Reviewers at the Journal of Cryptology didn’t understand why they were being asked to read a paper about CPU design, while reviewers at a computer hardware journal didn’t understand why they were being asked to read about cryptography. It became clear, both from my own experiences and from advice I received, that if I wanted to succeed in academia I would need to churn out incremental research papers every year — at very least until I had tenure.
In many ways, starting my own company has given me the sort of freedom which academics aspire to. Sure, I have customers to assist, servers to manage (not that they need much management), and business accounting to do; but professors equally have classes to teach, students to supervise, and committees to attend. When it comes to research, I can follow my interests without regard to the whims of granting agencies and tenure and promotion committees: I can do work like scrypt, which is now widely known but languished in obscurity for several years after I published it; and equally I can do work like kivaloo, which has been essentially ignored for close to a decade, with no sign of that ever changing.
Is there a hypothetical world where I would be an academic working on the Birch and Swinnerton-Dyer conjecture right now? Sure. It’s probably a world where high-ﬂying students are given, upon graduation, some sort of “mini-Genius Grant”. If I had been awarded a ﬁve-year $62,500/year grant with the sole condition of “do research”, I would almost certainly have persevered in academia and — despite working on the more interesting but longer-term questions — have had enough publications after those ﬁve years to obtain a continuing academic position. But that’s not how granting agencies work; they give out one or two year awards, with the understanding that those who are successful will apply for more funding later.
In short, academic institutions systemically promote exactly the sort of short-term optimization of which, ironically, the private sector is often accused. Is entrepreneurship a trap? No; right now, it’s one of the only ways to avoid being trapped.
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Can a native Mac code editor really be that much better?
Can a native Mac code editor really be that much better?
If we’re being honest, Mac apps are a bit of a lost art.
There are great reasons to make cross-platform apps — to start, they’re cross-platform — but it’s just not who we are. Founded as a Mac software company in 1997, our joy at Panic comes from building things that feel truly, well, Mac-like.
Long ago, we created Coda, an all-in-one Mac web editor that broke new ground. But when we started work on Nova, we looked at where the web was today, and where we needed to be. It was time for a fresh start.
It all starts with our ﬁrst-class text-editor.
It’s new, hyper-fast, and ﬂexible, with all the features you want: smart autocomplete, multiple cursors, a Minimap, editor overscroll, tag pairs and brackets, and way, way more.
It’s also very expandable, with a robust API and a built-in extension browser.
But even the best text engine in the world means nothing unless you actually enjoy spending your time in the app. So, how does Nova look?
You can make Nova look exactly the way you want, while still feeling Mac-like. Bright, dark, cyberpunk, it’s all you. Plus, themes are CSS-like and easy to write. Nova can even automatically change your theme when your Mac switches from light to dark mode.
Nova doesn’t just help you code. It helps your code run.
You can easily create build and run tasks for your projects. We didn’t have them in Coda, but boy do we have them now. They’re custom scripts that can be triggered at any time by toolbar buttons or keyboard shortcuts.
Imagine building content, and with the single click of a button watching as Nova ﬁres up your local server, grabs the appropriate URL, and opens a browser for you, instantly. Just think of the time you’ll save.
Nova supports separate Build, Run, and Clean tasks. It can open a report when run. And the scripts can be written in a variety of languages.
A Nova extension can do lots of things, like add support for new languages, extend the sidebar, draw beautiful new themes and syntax colors, validate different code, and much more.
Check out some of this week’s popular extensions…
And we’re here to help. Nova has a whole host of settings. We have easily customizable key bindings. We have custom, quickly-switchable workspace layouts. And we have loads of editor tweaks, from matching brackets to overscroll.
Our smartphones enable—and encourage—constant connection to information, entertainment, and each other. They put the world at our ﬁngertips, and rarely leave our sides. Although these devices have immense potential to improve welfare, their persistent presence may come at a cognitive cost. In this research, we test the “brain drain” hypothesis that the mere presence of one’s own smartphone may occupy limited-capacity cognitive resources, thereby leaving fewer resources available for other tasks and undercutting cognitive performance. Results from two experiments indicate that even when people are successful at maintaining sustained attention—as when avoiding the temptation to check their phones—the mere presence of these devices reduces available cognitive capacity. Moreover, these cognitive costs are highest for those highest in smartphone dependence. We conclude by discussing the practical implications of this smartphone-induced brain drain for consumer decision-making and consumer welfare.
Today we are proud to announce the ofﬁcial release of Vue.js 3.0 “One Piece”. This new major version of the framework provides improved performance, smaller bundle sizes, better TypeScript integration, new APIs for tackling large scale use cases, and a solid foundation for long-term future iterations of the framework.
The 3.0 release represents over 2 years of development efforts, featuring 30+ RFCs, 2,600+ commits, 628 pull requests from 99 contributors, plus tremendous amount of development and documentation work outside of the core repo. We would like to express our deepest gratitude towards our team members for taking on this challenge, our contributors for the pull requests, our sponsors and backers for the ﬁnancial support, and the wider community for participating in our design discussions and providing feedback for the pre-release versions. Vue is an independent project created for the community and sustained by the community, and Vue 3.0 wouldn’t have been possible without your consistent support.
Vue had a simple mission from its humble beginning: to be an approachable framework that anyone can quickly learn. As our user base grew, the framework also grew in scope to adapt to the increasing demands. Over time, it evolved into what we call a “Progressive Framework”: a framework that can be learned and adopted incrementally, while providing continued support as the user tackles more and more demanding scenarios.
Today, with over 1.3 million users worldwide*, we are seeing Vue being used in a wildly diverse range of scenarios, from sprinkling interactivity on traditional server-rendered pages, to full-blown single page applications with hundreds of components. Vue 3 takes this ﬂexibility even further.
Vue 3.0 core can still be used via a simple tag, but its internals has been re-written from the ground up into a collection of decoupled modules. The new architecture provides better maintainability, and allows end users to shave off up to half of the runtime size via tree-shaking.
These modules also exposes lower-level APIs that unlocks many advanced use cases:
* The core runtime provides ﬁrst-class API for creating custom renderers targeting different render targets (e.g. native mobile, WebGL or terminals). The default DOM renderer is built using the same API.
* The @vue/reactivity module exports functions that provide direct access to Vue’s reactivity system, and can be used as a standalone package. It can be used to pair with other templating solutions (e.g. lit-html) or even in non-UI scenarios.
The 2.x Object-based API is largely intact in Vue 3. However, 3.0 also introduces the Composition API - a new set of APIs aimed at addressing the pain points of Vue usage in large scale applications. The Composition API builds on top of the reactivity API and enables logic composition and reuse similar to React hooks, more ﬂexible code organization patterns, and more reliable type inference than the 2.x Object-based API.
Composition API can also be used with Vue 2.x via the @vue/composition-api plugin, and there are already Composition API utility libraries that work for both Vue 2 and 3 (e.g. vueuse, vue-composable).
Vue 3 has demonstrated significant performance improvements over Vue 2 in terms of bundle size (up to 41% lighter with tree-shaking), initial render (up to 55% faster), updates (up to 133% faster), and memory usage (up to 54% less).
In Vue 3, we have taken the approach of “compiler-informed Virtual DOM”: the template compiler performs aggressive optimizations and generates render function code that hoists static content, leaves runtime hints for binding types, and most importantly, ﬂattens the dynamic nodes inside a template to reduce the cost of runtime traversal. The user therefore gets the best of both worlds: compiler-optimized performance from templates, or direct control via manual render functions when the use case demands.
Vue 3′s codebase is written in TypeScript, with automatically generated, tested, and bundled type definitions so they are always up-to-date. Composition API works great with type inference. Vetur, our ofﬁcial VSCode extension, now supports template expression and props type checking leveraging Vue 3′s improved internal typing. Oh, and Vue 3′s typing fully supports TSX if that’s your preference.
We have proposed two new features for Singe-File Components (SFC, aka .vue ﬁles):
These features are already implemented and available in Vue 3.0, but are provided only for the purpose of gathering feedback. They will remain experimental until the RFCs are merged.
We have also implemented a currently undocumented component, which allows waiting on nested async dependencies (async components or component with async setup()) on initial render or branch switch. We are testing and iterating on this feature with the Nuxt.js team (Nuxt 3 is on the way) and will likely solidify it in 3.1.
The release of Vue 3.0 marks the general readiness of the framework. While some of the frameworks sub projects may still need further work to reach stable status (speciﬁcally router and Vuex integration in the devtools), we believe it’s suitable to start new, green-ﬁeld projects with Vue 3 today. We also encourage library authors to start upgrading your projects to support Vue 3.
Check out the Vue 3 Libraries Guide for details on all framework sub projects.
We have pushed back the migration build (v3 build with v2 compatible behavior + migration warnings) and the IE11 build due to time constraints, and are aiming to focus on them in Q4 2020. Therefore, users planning to migrate an existing v2 app or require IE11 support should be aware of these limitations at this time.
For the near term after release, we will focus on:
* Router and Vuex integration in new devtools
* Further improvements to template type inference in Vetur
For the time being, the documentation websites, GitHub branches, and npm dist tags for Vue 3 and v3-targeting projects will remain under next-denoted status. This means npm install vue will still install Vue 2.x and npm install vue@next will install Vue 3. We are planning to switch all doc links, branches and dist tags to default to 3.0 by end of 2020.
At the same time, we have started planning for 2.7, which will be the last planned minor release of the 2.x release line. 2.7 will be backporting compatible improvements from v3, and emit warnings on usage of APIs that are removed/changed in v3 to help with potential migration. We are planning to work on 2.7 in Q1 2021, which will directly become LTS upon release with an 18 months maintenance lifespan.
To learn more about Vue 3.0, check out our new documentation website. If you are an existing Vue 2.x user, go directly to the Migration Guide.
* *based on Vue Devtools Chrome extension weekly active users as reported by Google.