Animal (and voter fraud) news from New Zealand. And birds

First, I want you to be grateful to me for not giving you animal news about a newly discovered dinosaur the size of a basset hound, with the speed of a cheetah,* an unusually big brain and teeth. Lots of teeth. Because I didn’t want to dream about being chased by a low-to-the-ground voracious critter and thought you wouldn’t want to, either. I mean, I once saw a trailer involving Chucky the Clown and have been queasy ever since.

Ergo, let’s move on (fast) to “Voter Fraud Scandalizes New Zealand Bird Poll,” by Mike Ives in the New York Times. Perhaps you think there are more hot topics than one should have to handle in that title. So let’s try the online title: “Who Would Rig This Vote? The Fraud Was Real (and Feathers Were Ruffled): More than 1,500 fake votes were slipped into New Zealand’s Bird of the Year 2020 contest in favor of the kiwi pukupuku.”

Nah. That tangles things even more. Let’s try an explication of the story via the first paragraphs:

The voter fraud, perpetrated on Monday in New Zealand, was real. And the contenders were, er, fowl.

Love it when a reporter is having fun with a story.

As the citizens slept, a hacker slipped more than 1,500 fake votes into an election database, sending one flightless bird to the top.

No, no. Nobody slipped Trump’s name into the database and, as far as I know, New Zealand has not yet named a bird after our baby orange chicken.

The scandal has roiled Bird of the Year 2020, an online popularity contest among the native birds of New Zealand, and made headlines in the remote Pacific Island nation, which takes its avian biodiversity seriously.

“Bird of the Year 2020.” Good name for an election. And it’s instant run-off — that is, the way some of our states (Maine, for one, but I’m really pissed at Mainers right now, guess why?) conduct elections: ranked choice voting.

“It’s kind of disappointing that people decide to try their little tech tricks on Bird of the Year,” Laura Keown, the spokeswoman for the competition, told Radio New Zealand on Tuesday. “I’m not sure what kind of person could do it, but I like to assume that it’s somebody who just really loved native birds.”

So which bird got a leg up from a hacker? The kiwi pukupuku, that’s which. Also known as “the little spotted kiwi.” I’m hoping crossword puzzle writers will find a way of using “pukupuku.” It could replace “nene” on their Useful Rare Or Extinct Birds Clue List, although it has more letters.

No one has claimed responsibility, and no one is expected to.

*I made up the “speed of a cheetah” because it seemed scarier than the speed of, say, a labradoodle.





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