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Since tradition demands a bride practically drip with gold jewelry, it's never too early for an Indian family to start preparing, particularly with the high cost of gold these days.

Gold has been deeply entwined in Indian culture for thousands of years. Nowadays, India is by far the world's biggest buyer of gold and those imports are an increasing drain on an economy that is growing too slowly to reduce widespread poverty. Last year Indians imported 864 tons of gold, about one fifth of world sales. The cost of 2.5 trillion rupees ($45 billion) was second only to India's bill for imported oil. The unquenchable appetite for gold coins, bars and jewelry has swelled India's trade deficit and weakened its currency, making crucial imports such as fuel more expensive.

The government can't do much about oil imports â¿¿ without fuel, the economy would grind to a halt â¿¿ so in the past year it has tried to rein in gold demand, raising the import duty three times in a year to its current level of 6 percent. The higher tariff is proving little match for age-old tradition.

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Younger vets still struggle as jobs scene improves

WASHINGTON (AP) â¿¿ Two months after completing his five-plus years as an Army medic, Dan Huber is still looking for a job. And while he's had some promising interviews, he has no assurances the search will end soon.

That's given him some insight that he shares with some of his buddies back at Fort Polk in Louisiana: Don't wait until you've left the military to determine how you'll make ends meet as a civilian.

The unemployment rate for veterans between 18 and 24 exceeded 20 percent last year. It was also in double digits for those 25-34. The unemployment rate for both age groups was higher than for their nonveteran peers and much higher than the national average.

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