Obama back in Chicago for his birthday

CHICAGO — Alone on his 49th birthday, President Obama fled the empty White House mansion and headed for a more intimate celebration with longtime friends in his Chicago hometown.

Obama has been living a bachelor's life for the past several days with first lady Michelle Obama and daughter Sasha visiting Spain and daughter Malia spending the month away at an undisclosed camp.

In Chicago, as the presidential motorcade pulled closer to his house in Hyde Park, neighbors lined the street to welcome him home with waves and signs.

Pentagon: Retirees must claim back pay

WASHINGTON — The Pentagon is reminding an estimated 100,000 retired military men and women that they are owed back pay and should claim it.

Congress last year approved a $500 retroactive bonus to soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines for every month they were forced to stay in the military beyond their enlistment term — a controversial practice known as "stop-loss."

Troops kept involuntarily in the services from the September 2001 terrorist attacks until 2009 were given until this fall to apply for the money. With the Oct. 21 deadline approaching, only 30,000 claims have been paid so far.

Pentagon spokeswoman Eileen Lainez says more information on the program is at