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Down through history, many a political leader has stirred deep affection in his followers. Then there's the president of the United Arab Emirates, Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan al-Nahayan. He's so highly thought of by the people of the oil-rich region that they want to tell him so in a letter as he nears the close of a long career. But not just any letter. If all goes according to plan, this one will be the longest ever written - more than 12 miles. It's expected to take up to six months to write and to collect almost 2 million signatures.

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Speaking of mail, Tom Carson's payment finally has reached the water company in Decatur, Miss. But instead of traveling across town, it somehow traveled halfway around the world. Without ever being postmarked, the envelope holding his bill and a check ended up being delivered to a missionary in Lima, Peru. The fellow helpfully sent it back - with a note explaining why the utility was being paid a month late.

'Insider' was year's top film, Los Angeles film critics say

"The Insider" and its star actor captured the most votes among Los Angeles film critics to claim 1999 best-film and best-actor honors - and become front-runners in the Academy Award sweepstakes. The Los Angeles Film Critics Association, made up of about 50 writers in and around Tinseltown, named "American Beauty" the runner-up film. The association will hand out its awards Jan. 19. Its top awards for 1999:

Best film "The Insider"

Best actor Russell Crowe "The Insider"

Best actress Hilary Swank "Boys Don't Cry"

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Best-supporting actor Christopher Plummer "The Insider"

Best director Sam Mendes "American Beauty"

Best foreign film Pedro Almodovar "All About My Mother"

Best documentary Wim Wenders and Ry Cooder "The Buena Vista Social Club"

- Reuters

(c) Copyright 1999. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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