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New leader named for bankrupt solar company Solyndra

A bankruptcy court on Thursday approved the hiring of a chief restructuring officer at the California energy company Solyndra. R. Todd Neilson, who served as the bankruptcy trustee for the boxer Mike Tyson and the rap impresario Suge Knight, will now lead Solyndra as it struggles to emerge from bankruptcy.

The company president, Brian Harrison, who appeared before a House subcommittee Sept. 23 but invoked the Fifth Amendment, resigned on Oct. 7, the company said in a court filing. It said Harrison’s position was to be superseded by Neilson, a director of Berkeley Research Group, based in Los Angeles.

The House Committee on Energy and Commerce plans a hearing on Friday to examine whether the Energy Department acted properly earlier this year when it allowed Solyndra, which took $528 million in government loans before declaring bankruptcy, to restructure the loans and accept money from an additional lender. The new lender would have precedence over the government in a liquidation.

—Matthew L. Wald, The New York Times

Obama says facts support accusation of Iranian plot

WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama on Thursday vowed to push for what he called the “toughest sanctions” to punish Iranian officials whom he accused of complicity in a suspected plot to kill the Saudi ambassador to the U.S.

At the same time, State Department officials said U.S. officials had been in direct contact with the government of Iran over the accusations.

In his first public remarks on the issue since it was revealed Tuesday, Obama sought to counter skepticism about whether Iran’s Islamic government directed an Iranian-American car salesman to engage with a Mexican drug cartel to assassinate Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to the U.S. and carry out other attacks. Obama insisted that U.S. officials “know that he had direct links, was paid by, and directed by individuals in the Iranian government.”

The president said the administration had reached out to its allies and the international community to make its case. “We’ve laid the facts before them,” Obama said at a news conference conducted with the visiting South Korean president, Lee Myung-bak. “And we believe that after people have analyzed them, there will not be a dispute that this is in fact what happened.”

—Helene Cooper, The New York Times

As China’s economy cools, loan sharks come knocking

WENZHOU, China — As China’s economy has begun to slow slightly, more entrepreneurs are finding themselves unable to meet debt payments to loan sharks on which interest rates often run as high as 70 percent in this nation’s thriving unregulated, underground loan system. Many private businesses in China routinely use lenders of this sort because the government-run banks typically lend only to big state-run corporations.

Such illegal lending amounts to about $630 billion a year, or the equivalent of about 10 percent of China’s gross domestic product, according to estimates by the investment bank UBS.

In recent months, at least 90 business executives from Wenzhou, a one-hour flight south of Shanghai, have disappeared because of mounting debts and impending bankruptcies, according to a local government report.

This has raised concerns that private business may be losing steam — while exposing the high-risk, unregulated financial system on which so many of the nation’s small and medium-size businesses have come to depend.

—David Barboza, The New York Times