A Near-Death in Brisbane
Sister Dorothy Is Assassinated in Brazil

February 25, 2005

Dolphin Project activist Ric O'Barry has joined forces with Earth Island, the Elsa Nature Conservancy and the French-based environmental group, One Voice to protest the annual dolphin-killing in Taiji, Japan. For daily dispatches from the Taiji protests, see: www.savetaijidolphins.org Credit: Florida Sun-Sentinal
A Near-Death in Brisbane
By Ric O'Barry

While recently campaigning to free 44 captive dolphins in the Solomon Islands, fate would have it that my body temperature rose to an alarming rate during my three-day layover in Brisbane, Australia, and I was rendered helpless. I made my way to a local doctor who said I probably had a viral infection, which I suspect I caught from the guy sitting next to me during the 16-hour plane ride from California to Australia.

He was coughing and sneezing for the entire trip. I had no place to run for cover as the plane was completely full. So I simply covered up my head with a blanket and held my ground. But shortly after checking in at the hotel in Brisbane, I was sick as a dog. High fever, chills, chest pain, weakness, sneezing and coughing took over my life.

I summoned the hotel doctor who told me my fever was out of control. He gave me antibiotics, ordered me to bed and suggested that I may be feeling better in a few days. I holed up in my hotel room for three days waiting for the fever to pass, and waiting for Mark Berman to arrive as scheduled. But my condition only got worse.

Helene, my lovely Danish bride, called from Miami and got a incomprehensible and delirious response from me. (I don't remember that call.) She immediately called the front desk and asked that the manager go to my room and check on me. The receptionist refused to do that, saying that I had put the "Do Not Disturb" sign on the door, and the Australian hotel rules and regulations do not allow for a hotel employee to ignore this most important sign, no matter what.

The receptionist did, however, agree to call my room one more time, but this time there was no answer. Helene knew something was wrong and then, while demanding to speak to the hotel manager and have him knock on my door, she heard a known voice in the background. It was the voice of Mark Berman, AKA The Bermanator. He had just arrived at the hotel as scheduled for the journey to the Solomon Islands. He, too, had been trying to get a hold of me, unsuccessfully. Now Helene could hear him tell another receptionist, in no uncertain terms, to go open the door to my room immediately.

Mark Berman and Dave Brower. Credit: www.wildnesswithin.com
Enter the Bermanator:
Thank goodness Mark Berman showed up in his tights and cape when he did. In a crisis the Bermanator is not about to take a NO from anyone. This caped crusader is on a perpetual mission from God, and he refused to leave the front desk without the key to my room.

He was prepared to huff and puff until he blew the damn door down. They finally gave him the key in fear for their lives. He said: "I'll be bock" as all the employees went into hiding under their desks. The Bermanator flew up the elevator shaft like a speeding bullet, ripped the "Do Not Disturb" sign off the door and pushed his way inside.

By this point I was on the floor, completely delirious and dehydrated with a dangerously high fever. In an attempt to lower the chill factor that I was experiencing intermittently with the fever, I must have turned off the air conditioner before passing out. Bad idea.

The Bermanator swung into action immediately. He turned the air back on, called a doctor who checked my vital signs and then called an ambulance. The doctor said that my condition could be very dangerous, even life threatening. I was rushed to the ER of Brisbane Hospital. X-rays and other tests identified the problem as pneumonia with a dangerously high fever. They hooked me up to some kind of drip-solution overnight. (I have no recollection of any of this.)

No question, if the Bermanator had not been a "Yiddish nugjen" (badger, annoying, persistent person) I may have died of overheating on the floor of room 1311 at the Holiday Inn in Brisbane. So said the attending doctors. His swift action and persistence may have saved my life.

When I regained consciousness the next day, I questioned the attending nurse and suddenly realized that we were scheduled to make our way to the Solomon Islands today. Thinking I was dead meat, the Bermanator decided to carry on the mission without me.

But Nooooo.....
The fever had subsided and so I decided to make a run for the airport to get aboard our scheduled plane and our mission back on track. I jumped off the gurney and pulled the plastic tubes out of my left forearm and bolted out of the ER door. The doctors and nurses chased after me, yelling and screaming that there was no way I could go anywhere in my condition. But I ignored them and hit the street running barefoot through the car park in my black Ralph Loren Polo jockey shorts.

I ran through the parking lot heading for the only yellow cab parked there and took off like we just robbed a bank or something. We stopped at the Holiday Inn and I told the very nervous cab driver to wait for me. I got a key from the desk clerk and went back into room 1311. I stuffed everything in my sea-bag, jumped back into the yellow cab and now we are breaking all ground speed records to the international airport.

I gave the frantic driver a hand-full of money and orders to drive faster. Arriving and jumping out of the speeding cab. I covered every inch of the airport from top to bottom in about 15 minutes looking for the Bermanator.

Finally, there he was, straddling two phone booths. The Bermanator had a phone in each ear as usual. He was talking to Dave Phillips and my wife at the same time. When he saw me, his jaw dropped to the floor and he belted out a strange sound. "What the hell are you doing here?"

I assured him that everything was cool, not to worry, we can do this. He was in a state of shock to see me and said to Helene: "Call the Brisbane hospital and ask the nurses how the hell he got out of there!"

Mission Accomplished
The Bermanator and I got our most important mission back on track and headed for Guadalcanal, Solomon Islands. We were able to keep our scheduled appointment with government officials, see the 44 captive dolphins and negotiate a deal for their freedom. We were able to accomplish everything that we originally set out to do.

A bit of Advise: If you are going to travel to dark and dangerous places to free captive dolphins, always have a super-hero like the Bermanator traveling with you for back up. (or at least a good Jewish mother)

Richard O'Barry was the original trainer of the dolphins that appeared in the "Flipper" TV series during the 1960's. He has become a born-again dolphin freedom fighter and has been working with San Francisco-based Marine Mammal Project to end the dolphin drive fishery in Japan and to protect dolphins elsewhere.

Sister Dorothy Stang: June 7, 1931 – February 12, 2005 Credit: The Sisters of Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur
Sister Dorothy Assassinated in Brazil
Sisters of Notra Dame de Namur

Sister of Notre Dame de Namur Dorothy Stang, moved to the Amazon 22 years ago to help poor farmers build independent futures for their families. She was shot to death Saturday, February 12, in Anapu, Para, a section of Brazil's Amazon rain forest.

A citizen of Brazil and the United States, Sister Dorothy worked with the Pastoral Land Commission, an organization of the Catholic Church that fights for the rights of rural workers and peasants, and defends land reforms in Brazil. Her death came less than a week after meeting with the country's human rights officials about threats to local farmers from loggers and landowners.

After receiving several death threats Sister Dorothy recently commented, "I don't want to flee, nor do I want to abandon the battle of these farmers who live without any protection in the forest. They have the sacrosanct right to aspire to a better life on land where they can live and work with dignity while respecting the environment."

"It was three shots at point-blank range," reported Sr. Betsy Flynn, SND from Fortaleza, Brazil. "She received so many threats; I just never thought it would happen." The Brazilian Order of Lawyers, a nationwide lawyers group, had included Sr. Dorothy on a list of human rights workers who faced possible assassination.

Sister Dorothy, 73, was born in Dayton, Ohio. She entered the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur community in 1948 and professed final vows in 1956.From 1951 to 1966 she taught elementary classes at St. Victor School in Calumet City, IL, St. Alexander School in Villa Park, IL and Most Holy Trinity School in Phoenix, AZ. She began her ministry in Brazil in 1966, in Coroata in the state of Maranhao.

Last June, Sister Dorothy was named "Woman of the Year" by the state of Para for her work in the Amazon region. In December 2004, she received the Humanitarian of the Year award from the Brazilian Bar Association for her work helping the local rural workers. Earlier this year, she received an "Honorary Citizenship of the State" award from the state of Para.

Sr. Dorothy lived in Anapu, Para, a young county created by peasant farmers who migrated from the northeast of Brazil into the Amazon Forest following agrarian land reform. About 173,000 acres of the forest had been declared unproductive three years ago and was given to the farmers by Brazil's National Institute of Colonization and Agrarian Reform. The farmer's organization, "Sem Terra" (Without Land), has 600 member families involved in the project. The land, which is rich in cedar and mahogany, is of interest to loggers and corporate landowners. Sr. Dorothy and the farm families had received death threats connected with their protection of the land.

BBC News reported early Sunday that Brazil's Human Rights Minister Nilmario Miranda said two suspects in the case had already been identified and that putting those responsible behind bars was "a matter of honor" for the Brazilian government.

Another member of the Brazilian cabinet, Environment Minister Marina Silva, compared Sr. Dorothy's murder to the killing of trade union leader Chico Mendes, a campaigner for the rainforest whose death in 1988 sparked worldwide outrage.

Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva has sent ministers and police teams to the area to investigate the murder. The early morning attack came less than a week after Sr. Dorothy met Secretary Miranda to report that four local farmers had received death threats from loggers and landowners.

In August 2004, Sr. Dorothy spoke about the danger associated with her work. "It is not my safety but that of the people that really matters," she said. "All of the Sisters of Notre Dame working in Brazil work very closely with our people and want to be a sign of hope. It is wonderful to be a part of this struggle and this is the contribution of Notre Dame."

Sister Dorothy leaves four sisters and four brothers. Her surviving sisters are Norma J. Stang of Sacramento, CA; Barbara Richardson of Dayton; Mary Heil of Little Rock, AK and Marguerite Hohm of Fairfax VA. Her surviving brothers are Jim Stang of Dayton; Dave Stang of Denver, CO; Tom Stang of Los Angeles CA and John Stang of Slidell LA. Burial services were held in Anapu in the Brazilian state of Para. A memorial Mass will be celebrated at the Mount Notre Dame Convent chapel in Cincinnati on March 19, 2005.

Sister Dorothy was a member of the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur, an international religious order of about 2,000 women in five continents. Memorials may be directed to the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur, Ohio Province, 701 E. Columbia Avenue, Cincinnati OH 45215.

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