Meanwhile... in Iraq, a former US college basketball player has put his troubled career back on track

And in St. John’s, Newfoundland, serious birdwatchers are braving the cold and snow and arriving by the dozens, while in Monrovia, Liberia, African movie star Van Vicker opened the country’s first postwar performing arts school.

Al Behrman/AP/File
Demario Mayfield in 2012

In Iraq, former US college basketball player DeMario Mayfield has put his troubled career back on track. At the same time, he’s found a team and fan base that adore him.  

In college, Mr. Mayfield played successfully for schools in North Carolina, Georgia, and Texas. But in May 2013, he was charged with conspiracy to commit armed robbery. After serving a 10-month sentence, he found few teams interested in giving him a second chance. 

It looked like “the end,” Mayfield told Agence France-Presse, but then he said, “I realized I just had to ... dig myself out of the hole.” He accepted the only job offer that came his way – a chance to play basketball with the Baghdad Oil Club – one of 12 teams in the Iraqi Basketball Federation.

Mayfield has been playing a strong game with the team since 2015, and IFB chairman Husein al-Amdey calls him “one of the best basketball players in the region.” Mayfield, who nows holds dual US-Iraqi citizenship, has learned some basic Arabic and says he loves his fellow players as brothers. “I will forever be grateful for the opportunity that I have had presented to me [here in Iraq],” he told AFP.

In St. John’s, Newfoundland, serious birdwatchers are braving the cold and snow and arriving by the dozens. Rare northern birds like the purple sandpiper and yellow-legged gull may “winter” in Newfoundland and can be seen there between December and February. Jared Clarke, a 38-year-old who three years ago left a career in neuroscience research to become a full-time bird guide in St. John’s, told Toronto’s thestar.com that he’s encouraged by what he sees as the rise of “Millennial urban birders” – savvy 20- and 30-something professionals who are passionate about the pastime. 

In Monrovia, Liberia, African movie star Van Vicker opened the country’s first postwar performing arts school; he expects to enroll 25 students this month. Mr. Vicker now lives in Ghana but was born to a Liberian mother. He has been quoted in the local press saying that he hopes his school will help Liberia to heal after 15 years of a crippling civil war. 

“The school is dedicated to providing an outlet for inspiring Liberian musicians and filmmakers,” he said, according to Africa Front Page. “Liberia has talents.... I decided to open this work as my way of helping to promote and develop their talents.”

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