Afternoon Edition: Jan. 13, 2022

Good afternoon. Here’s the latest news you need to know in Chicago. It’s about a 5-minute read that will fleeting you on today’s biggest stories.

This afternoon will be mostly cloudy with a high near 39 degrees. Tonight will also be mostly cloudy with a low around 29 and a 40% chance of snow. Tomorrow will be cloudy with high near 31 and a 50% chance of snow.

Top story

AG Kwame Raoul announces student debt settlement with Navient

Thousands of Illinoisans will receive restitution payments and debt cancellations from Navient, one of the nation’s largest student loan servicing companies, under terms of a multistate settlement.

The payouts and debt relief will resolve years-old lawsuits filed by attorneys general from nearly 40 states and provide “substantial” compensation to borrowers, especially those targeted by Navient for so-called “subprime” loans to attend for-profit colleges, Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul said at an online news conference today.

Illinois in 2017 was one of the first states to sue Navient, when Raoul’s predecessor, Lisa Madigan, filed a lawsuit against the company in state court. The federal consumer protection agency, Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, filed a federal suit, and in the ensuing years, other states launched suits. The settlement announced today nevertheless will require approval from a federal estimate in Pennsylvania, and the CFPB lawsuit nevertheless is current.

Navient did not let in to any wrongdoing as part of the settlement. The company had been one of the largest servicers of student debt, though last year it sought to get out of the business of handling federal student loans.

The lawsuits alleged Navient made private loans to students who attended for-profit schools with dismal graduation rates despite knowing the students were likely to wind up defaulting on their debts.

When borrowers fell behind, the lawsuits alleged, Navient steered them into forbearance programs, which stalled payments but additional to debt as interest charges accrued, instead of counseling them to use income-based payment plans that might have reduced their payments or deleted some or all of their debt.

Some 18,000 Illinois residents who took out private loans from Navient or its predecessor company, Sallie Mae, will get about $260 each. More than 5,000 will receive a total of $133 million in loan forgiveness. Across all states, Navient will pay out a total of $145 million in restitution, though only $95 million will go to payouts, and forgive loans totaling $1.7 billion.

Andy Grimm has more on the settlement here.

More news you need

  1. Chicago police appealed to the public for help in solving the murders of two 14-year-old boys shot in separate attacks, saying investigators have some video and observe accounts. As of this afternoon, no one was in custody in either of the shootings, police said.
  2. A Joliet man has been charged with fatally shooting 16-year-old Alberto Flores last year in Little Village. The 27-year-old faces a charge of first-degree murder in the Feb. 21, 2021 shooting, according to Chicago police.
  3. Rep. Bobby Rush, D-Ill., who will retire from Congress next year after 15 terms, today endorsed Karin Norington-Reaves to succeed him in the 1st Congressional District. The district, anchored on the city’s South Side, is one of the most historic in the nation, spawning famous Black elected officials for decades.
  4. A federal estimate sentenced a Chicago man to 18 months of probation today after he admitted last year that he made threats on Facebook amid the 2018 trial of then-Chicago Police Officer Jason Van Dyke. U.S. District Chief estimate Rebecca Pallmeyer urged the man to become part of the solution to the “gnawing problem that we have of without of peace, and suspicion, and conspiracies and hatred.”
  5. After positive COVID-19 tests among cast and crew, NBC series “Chicago PD” has suspended filming Season 9. It’s just one example of how Chicago’s TV industry is feeling the pinch of the pandemic.

A bright one

Garfield Park Conservatory agave flower is 15 feet tall and growing

Amid the Old Man and Totem Pole cacti and the Desert Prickly Pears, the tip of something extremely tall and slender quivers.

No, it isn’t moving on its own – but that wouldn’t be thoroughly surprising, given that it has grown about 9 inches during the last 24 hours.

The Agave guiengola – part of the asparagus family — is quivering because its keepers are trying, with important difficulty, to stretch a tape measure along its length.

Finally, the folks in the Desert House at the Garfield Park Conservatory declare it to be 15 feet, 3 inches tall. But it’s anyone’s guess how much taller the flower “spike” will grow.

Gus Coliadis (from left), Victor Amo and Ray Jorgensen on Wednesday measure the stalk of Guien, an agave in a death bloom at the Garfield Park Conservatory yesterday.
Anthony Vazquez/Sun-Times

The spike has been growing for a little over a month and attracting attention already in a setting sprouting plants of breathtaking size, shape and texture — from the Desert Prickly Pear with its 4-inch-long spines to the enormous Bottle Tree with branches that wire down like snakes.

It’s doubtful that the agave plant will reach the height of the conservatory’s Agave americana, which topped out at about 38 feet in 2019 and required staff to remove a glass panel in the roof.

But it’s clear Ray Jorgensen, the floriculturist who oversees the care of the 600 or so succulents in the Desert House. will miss it when the blooming plant finally dies.

“Particularly when [the bloom] first starts to open — it’s like sensual; it’s so beautiful,” he said.

Stefano Esposito has more on Garfield Park Conservatory’s agave flower here.

From the press box

Your daily question ☕

How can you tell someone’s from Chicago?

Yesterday we asked you: CPS parents — how are you feeling about the return to in-person learning this week?

Here’s what some of you said…

“I feel it was rushed! I would’ve preferred online. The packets that they received yesterday are almost complete today.” — Buddy B. Love

“CPS and the mayor have failed our teachers and our kids by not adequately preparing for this variant. Someone dropped the ball, and the most unprotected will be left to suffer.” — Diane Worobec-Serratos

“We are very thankful that our kindergarten was able to return to her fun classroom setting. She has a great day. And we also appreciate the principal, staff, teachers and everyone who contributed to children being back.” — Ericka Sweetcheek

“So excited! My daughter was thrilled to see her teacher and friends.” — Brooke Bielski-Etapa

“Fully against it. We had family members die of this within the last few weeks (my parents), and now they expect my son to be able to manager that and return to in-person when there’s nevertheless a threat. Completely wrong. He already has anxiety and the therapist said it is not good for him to go (and shared that with the school too), but the school doesn’t care. He’s also one of the kids who excelled at virtual and prefers it. Sending him back is the wrong thing to do.” — Amy Jo

“So thankful for the kids to be back in school and thankful for teachers being back in addition!” — Laurie Kamuda Mullick

“Not good about it because she just got back and already there is a case of COVID-19. I nevertheless think they should go far away — this virus is strong. So, I ain’t sending her for a while now. This is crazy” — Veronica Garcia

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