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New BlackBerry arrival set for March 22 in U.S.

TORONTO – BlackBerry-maker Research In Motion will begin selling its new touch-screen smartphone to U.S. consumers with AT&T on March 22. The release will come several weeks after RIM launched the much-delayed devices elsewhere.

AT&T said Monday that the Z10 will be available for $199.99 with a two-year contract. Sales of the device began in the U.K. and Canada shortly after RIM unveiled the phone in late January.

Rival U.S. carrier T-Mobile said it expects to deliver the new BlackBerry for some corporate customers as soon as the end of this week, though it did not provide details on the availability for nonbusiness customers.

Last anti-Chavez TV station to be sold

CARACAS, Venezuela – The last remaining television station critical of Venezuela’s government is being sold to an insurance company owner who is apparently friendly with the ruling socialists, its owners announced Monday, following an unrelenting official campaign to financially strangle the broadcaster through regulatory pressure.

The announcement, which civil liberties advocates called a crushing blow to press freedom, comes a month ahead of crucial elections to replace Hugo Chavez as the opposition accuses the late president’s political heirs of employing multiple violations of the constitution to gain an unfair advantage.

The editorial line of Globovision is expected to change under new management, employees told the Associated Press. Many journalists sobbed when informed of the sale, certain some would lose their jobs, said one senior employee.

The sale will wait until April 14 elections, which Chavez’s hand-picked successor, Nicolas Maduro, is highly favored to win.

Downturn in Portugal worst in 37 years

LISBON, Portugal – Portugal’s statistics agency says the economy contracted 3.2 percent last year – its sharpest annual downturn since 1975.

Portugal is enacting broad debt-reduction measures, including tax hikes and pay and pension cuts, in return for a $102 billion international financial lifeline it received in May 2011. Those austerity policies are widely blamed for the deepening recession and growing hardship.

The National Statistics Institute said Monday that a drop in private consumption and slower export growth were the main factors behind the slump, with the economy shrinking 3.8 percent in the fourth quarter.

Unemployment stands at 17.6 percent, the third-highest rate in the 27-nation bloc after Greece and Spain.