Spc. Robert Loria of Middletown, N.Y., lost his arm in Iraq, but instead of a farewell paycheck from the Army he got a bill for nearly $1,800. Yesterday, New York legislators...

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WASHINGTON — Spc. Robert Loria of Middletown, N.Y., lost his arm in Iraq, but instead of a farewell paycheck from the Army he got a bill for nearly $1,800.

Yesterday, New York legislators came to his rescue.

Loria, 27, found himself stuck in Fort Hood in Texas this week when Army officials said he owed money for travel expenses and for lost equipment.

Rep. Maurice Hinchey and Sens. Charles Schumer and Hillary Rodham Clinton interceded on behalf of Loria after his wife, Christine Loria, told the Times-Herald Record of Middletown about the problem.

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Loria was wounded in February. As he was about to leave the Army this month, officials told him he had been overpaid for his time as a patient at a military hospital in the Washington area, and said he still owed money for travel between the hospital and Fort Hood, as well as $310 for items not found in his returned equipment. Instead of a check for nearly $4,500, Loria was told he had to pay nearly $1,800.

Clinton, Schumer and Hinchey said the Army had dropped the billing demands and would allow Loria to return home on leave before he is discharged.

Red Cross team visits Fallujah


BAGHDAD, Iraq — A Red Cross team entered Fallujah for the first time since a U.S.-led offensive devastated the city and met with Iraqi technicians and engineers to discuss the city’s sewage- and water-treatment needs, a group spokesman said yesterday.

But the team, which entered the city Tuesday, did not have time to inspect a warehouse where the military said the bodies of several hundred insurgents or civilians were stored. The team had wanted to visit the site to verify the number of dead.

“We couldn’t reach the warehouse because of the time limitations,” said Ahmed Rawi, a spokesman for the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) who went on the trip. “The ICRC will follow up this issue with the concerned authorities in terms of documenting and then burying the bodies.”

Rawi said the Red Cross team’s movement in the city was limited because of a curfew and because it had to get out before dark.

Poll finds pessimism growing among public


WASHINGTON — Americans remain sharply divided in their views of how President Bush is handling Iraq, and their confidence that a stable, democratic government will be established in that country has eroded, an Associated Press poll found. Fewer than half, or 47 percent, think it’s likely Iraq will establish a stable government, according to the poll conducted by Ipsos-Public Affairs. Just over half, or 51 percent, say they think it’s unlikely. In April, 55 percent said they believed a stable, democratic government probably would be established; 44 percent thought it unlikely.

While doubts are growing about Iraq’s future, the public’s view of the president’s handling of the situation has remained fairly constant through the year — dipping slightly in June — but evenly split now.

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A U.N. panel critical of how the U.S.-led coalition authority in Iraq spent billions of dollars from the U.N. oil-for-food program and other sales of Iraqi oil will issue its report Monday, an official with the world body said.

Iraqi militants have released a Sri Lankan truck driver and his Bangladeshi colleague after holding them hostage for 43 days, Sri Lanka’s foreign ministry said yesterday. The two men, who both worked for a Kuwaiti transport company, are being returned to their home countries, the ministry reported.

A military investigation has concluded a “friendly fire” incident, in which a Navy pilot was shot down and killed by U.S. forces during the 2003 invasion of Iraq, occurred because operators at two Patriot missile batteries and a command center mistakenly took his F/A-18 Hornet for an incoming Iraqi missile, the U.S. Central Command said last night.