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Judge blocks bankruptcy in Northern Ireland

A judge in Belfast on Tuesday rejected an attempt by Sean Quinn, once considered Ireland’s richest man, to declare bankruptcy in Northern Ireland rather than in his home country, where terms are tougher.

Quinn, 65, had been accused of “bankruptcy tourism” by creditors seeking to collect almost 3 billion euros ($3.8 billion).

Quinn, whose family has owned a farm in Northern Ireland for nearly five generations, now faces the prospect of bankruptcy in the Republic of Ireland, where rules could prevent him from getting back in business for as many as 12 years, as opposed to 12 months in Northern Ireland.

The Irish Bank Resolution Corp., formerly Anglo Irish Bank, had challenged his bankruptcy application in Northern Ireland, arguing that the real center of his interests was his mansion in Ballyconnell, County Cavan, near the Northern Ireland border.

The case is part of an effort to consolidate control of Quinn’s international properties and the Quinn Group, which the resolution corporation seized last April, including its headquarters in Derrylin, County Fermanagh, Northern Ireland.

—Doreen Carvajal, The New York Times

North Korea announces prisoner release

SEOUL, South Korea — North Korea said Tuesday that it would release prisoners in its first special amnesty in seven years, a day after soldiers paraded in the capital of Pyongyang vowing to become “rifles and bombs” to defend the country’s new leader, Kim Jong Un. The military rally in Pyongyang on Monday and the special pardon, effective from Feb. 1, came as North Korea escalated a campaign to consolidate support for Kim.

The North’s official Korean Central News Agency reported that the special pardon was part of national celebrations to observe the 70th anniversary in February of the birth of Kim Jong Il, the new leader’s father who died on Dec. 17, and the 100th anniversary in April of the birth of Kim Il Sung, the founder of North Korea.

But it did not reveal what sort of criminals would be pardoned or how many inmates would be freed. For years, international human rights groups have claimed that up to 200,000 people are being held in political prison camps, and many more in other penal institutions.

North Korea granted the last such pardon in August 2005 to mark the 60th anniversary of the ruling Workers’ Party.

—Choe Sang-Hun, The New York Times

Malnutrition in India is widespread, report finds

NEW DELHI — Roughly 42 percent of all Indian children under age 5 suffer from malnutrition, a sobering reminder of the persistence of poverty and hunger in the world’s largest democracy, according to a major report released Tuesday.

“The problem of malnutrition is a matter of national shame,” Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said as the study was released. “Despite impressive growth in our GDP, the level of undernutrition in the country is unacceptably high.”

The new findings came from a survey of 73,000 households in nine Indian states conducted by the Naandi Foundation, an independent charitable group. They pointed up India’s nagging difficulties in reducing poverty and hunger among its 1.2 billion people, despite robust economic growth over the last decade. Known as the Hungama survey, the report comes at a time when Indian lawmakers are in heated debate over the costs and social benefits of broadly expanding the country’s subsidized food program.

—Jim Yardley, The New York Times