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BUSINESS BRIEFLY

RIM begins layoffs as part of restructuring plan

TORONTO (AP) -- Struggling BlackBerry maker Research In Motion said Wednesday it has started laying off employees as part of its restructuring plan aimed at saving about $1 billion this year.

RIM said in May that there would be "significant layoffs" this year. Wednesday, the Waterloo, Ont.-based company said it has "reduced some positions as part of its program and may continue to do so as the company methodically works through a review of the business."

RIM declined to provide numbers but will offer an update when it reports quarterly financial results June 28. RIM had about 16,500 employees in early May.

The once-iconic BlackBerry company is facing the most difficult period in its history. RIM is preparing to launch a new operating system -- Blackberry 10 -- later this year, just as North Americans are abandoning BlackBerrys for iPhones and Android phones.

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Oil prices drop nearly 3%

NEW YORK (AP) -- The price of oil dropped almost 3 percent Wednesday as the sluggishness of the economy was underscored by more pessimism from the Federal Reserve and a surprising jump in U.S. oil supplies.

Benchmark U.S. crude fell by $2.47 to $81.56 per barrel in New York. Brent crude, which is used to price much of the oil imported into the U.S., lost $1.83 to $93.93 per barrel in London.

Gasoline prices have tumbled by nearly 45 cents per gallon, on average, since the first week of April. The national average fell by a penny to $3.487 per gallon Wednesday, according to auto club AAA, Wright Express and Oil Price Information Service.

In the Buffalo Niagara region, a gallon of regular averaged $3.73 Wednesday, down 22 cents from a month ago.

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P&G cuts revenue forecasts

NEW YORK (AP) -- Procter & Gamble Co. on Wednesday lowered its fourth-quarter earnings and revenue forecasts, the latest company to sound warning bells about slowing global economic growth.

P&G, which makes an array of everyday goods ranging from Tide detergent to Gillette razors, said it is cutting the forecast because of unfavorable foreign exchange rates, continued slow growth in developed markets and a slowdown of growth in China.

Earlier this month, McDonald's said economic volatility, particularly in Asia, is pressuring its second-quarter results. Package delivery company FedEx Corp. on Tuesday said the slowing global economy is expected to crimp its growth over the next 12 months. Its rival UPS in April similarly said slowing Asian shipments hurt quarterly results.

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Starbucks to open tea shop

NEW YORK (AP) -- Starbucks Corp. is planning to open its first Tazo tea shop this fall, in yet another move to expand beyond its ubiquitous coffee shops.

The Seattle-based cafe chain says the store will open near its headquarters and will include a tea bar where customers can blend their own tea mixes with the help of a store worker the company is calling a "tea partner."

The store will offer more than 80 varieties of loose-leaf tea, tea lattes and iced teas, as well as packaged chocolates, infused sugars and honeys. Pastries and other food will also be served, as in the company's coffee shops. It will not be branded with Starbucks' "green dot" logo.

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Jobs push planned in Israel

JERUSALEM (AP) -- Cisco Systems Inc. CEO and Chairman John Chambers on Wednesday introduced a campaign to help create 12,000 high-tech jobs in Israel's distressed Arab sector over the next four years.

Chambers said the initiative represents an expansion of "Maantech," a year-old project launched by high-tech companies that aims to reduce economic gaps between Israel's Arabs and Jews.

Arabs make up roughly one-fifth of Israel's 8 million citizens. While they enjoy full citizenship rights, they are generally poorer, less educated and frequently suffer discrimination in the housing and job markets.