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Featured Article: Kalahari Desert

Kalahari Desert
The Kalahari Desert is not really a desert, but rather a large arid to semi-arid sandy area in southern Africa, covering much of Botswana and parts of Namibia and South Africa. Though it is semi-desert, it has huge tracts of excellent grazing after good rains and is rich in wildlife. The homeland of the Bushmen for perhaps thirty thousand years, the desert was the setting for the movie The Gods Must Be Crazy, which featured a Bushman family.

A strange, yet essential feature of this region are the pans, which are shallow hollows consisting of hard, gray clay. While appearing drab and flat, these pans provide essential salt for the animals of the Kalahari. They vary in size from a few hundred meters to a few square kilometers. There are two other distinct ecosystems found in the central Kalahari region: rich savanna and grasslands.

The core area of the desert covers an area of 100,000 square miles (260,000 square kilometers). But the surrounding Kalahari Basin covers over 2.5 million square kilometers, extending farther into Botswana, Namibia, and South Africa and encroaching into parts of Angola, Zambia, and Zimbabwe. The only permanent river, the Okavango, flows into a delta in northwest Botswana, forming marshes that draw abundant wildlife. Ancient dry riverbeds—called omuramba—traverse the central northern reaches of the Kalahari and provide standing pools of water during the rainy season. Previously havens for wild animals from elephants to giraffes, and for predators such as lions and cheetahs, the riverbeds are now mostly grazing spots, though leopards or cheetahs can still be found.

Popular Article: Caste system

Caste systems are any ranked, hereditary, endogamous occupational groups that constitute traditional societies in certain regions of the world, particularly among Hindus in India. There, caste is rooted in antiquity and specifies the rules and restrictions governing social intercourse and activity for each group based on their occupation and social status. The different castes practiced mutual exclusion in many social activities, including eating, as well as marriage. In addition to the major castes, there also existed another group, the "outcastes," who were relegated to the worst occupations if any employment at all. Ranked below the castes, they were treated as sub-human—"unseeable" and "untouchable."

While the Indian caste system is the most well-known, other cultures have had similar structures. While most are no longer in force, one common attribute, and one that persists despite official rulings against it, is the existence of an "outcaste" group. Those classified in this way, whether they be Dalit in India, Burakumin in Japan, or Baekjeong in Korea, have suffered discrimination throughout their history. While the caste system in general is no longer considered acceptable as it denies people many opportunities now considered human rights based on their lineage, it is those that suffer the greatest loss of rights and opportunity, the outcastes, for whom the caste system remains most strongly a reality.