Cartography wars

The border between Peru and Chile became increasingly fraught Wednesday -- with France stepping into the fray by (inadvertently?) publishing a map that seems to side with Peru.

Peru and Chile are awaiting a ruling from the International Court of Justice, to decide the maritime boundaries between the two. In the mean time, Peruvian media is crowing with delight at the French National Geographic Institute's slip-up, saying "If it is not a prediction, it is at least an encouraging fact."

But Chile's diplomats will not let the issue rest, government officials pressed the Gallic institute for answers, while at the same time assuring their people that this cannot influence The Hague's final decision.

The French chancery today put out a statement assuring their neutrality in the matter, saying the map in question has "no official value."

Tensions have been running high for a while, with Peru protesting Chilean military demonstrations as threatening and proposing a regional non-aggression pact in order to stop a Latin American arms race.

More seriously, Bolivia is staying out of this dispute, although it too has a strong interest in two countries' ocean borders. Chile and Bolivia are negotiating to give the latter country sea access for the first time in 140 years, having lost its ocean view in the 19th century War of the Pacific, in which Chile annexed portions of Peru and Bolivia.


Wen Jiabao apologizes for geology error

Say what you will about Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao, the man does not want to mislead the public about rocks. Grandpa Wen wrote this self-correcting letter to Xinhua this week:

In my article "Teachers Are the Pillars of Our Education," which was published by your agency yesterday, the categories of petrology ought to be "sedimentary, igneous, and metamorphic". I wish to make this correction and to express my apologies to all readers.

Wen had originally written "volcanic" instead of "metamorphic".'s Eric Mu writes:

Needless to say, the apology burnishes the established reputation of Wen as a humble, down-to-earth, grandfatherly leader, even if, as a graduate of the Beijing Institute of Geology, he really ought to have known such basic information.

I can think of a few things I'd rather the Chinese premier apologize for, but I guess this is a start.