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Mulch 

Wednesday, Mar 12 1997
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What Price Justice? Try $300,000 and Up...
The Nov. 15 murder of reputed gang leader Cuong Tran -- killed outside a San Francisco nightclub an eerie eight minutes after and one mile away from the spot where prominent S.F. attorney Dennis Natali met the same fate -- was the sort of drama ordinarily reserved for crime novels. But the cost is no fiction. It is painfully real.

The tab on the Tran murder case is climbing rapidly. Suffice it to say that the denizens of whatever world Tran moved in don't appreciate attention -- the cost to stash three witnesses alone has run to an estimated $300,000 so far, according to the District Attorney's Office. They've been relocated, renamed, and are essentially living under law enforcement protection, at least until their court appearances. And while the city may be reimbursed for all or part of those expenses by the feds, it's not likely to happen until the case is over, which could be several more months at least. Meanwhile, the meter keeps running.

-- L.D.

Seeing Red in Palo Alto
After Stanford dropped from fourth to sixth on U.S. News & World Report's annual Best Colleges guide, some students there started a campaign against the magazine. Here's Stanford Student Government Vice President Mark Thompson on the matter, quoted in the Chron: "We don't think you can rank a college overall. It's like ranking a religion -- are you going to create an algorithm to come up with America's best denomination?"

Anything on which a middle-class American family might spend upward of 20 grand a year seems to us ripe for outside assessment; Thompson's position is in this context somewhat curious, roughly equivalent to that of, say, a Pinto owner who instead of getting mad at Ford for selling him a lemon attacks the people who told him the damn thing might explode on impact. A university's propensity to produce people who are unable to make distinctions -- not to mention those who engage in opportunistic publicity campaigns armed with little besides spurious metaphors -- seems to us a good ranking measure, and one that U.S. News might use productively in next year's guide.

-- B.W.

Po Mouth
No matter how new the vehicles for book hype may be, they're still powered by the same old, well, gas. Just look at Po Bronson's personal Website, used in part to plug his new novel, The First $20 Million Is Always the Hardest. Fitting for the book's audience, Bronson created an electronic bulletin board for readers to post comments about the Silicon Valley Wunderkind. In what looks like a grass-roots effort, Bronson's Website carried messages from a half-dozen satisfied readers offering their own glowing assessments. But it was the last posting, a charmed review from "becky@sirius.com" (which has since disappeared) that read with enthusiasm nonpareil. "I loved it! I read it in one afternoon," she cheered. "How did you get so smart?"

The Website also carried a copy of the official Random House press release, naming four press contacts at the bottom of the page. Listed as the "High Tech media" rep: becky

--

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