ENCOURAGING NEWS ON GIFFORDS’ CONDITION…. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.) remains in critical condition, and as we were reminded yesterday, she’s “not out of the woods” when it comes to her recovery. But the AP noted that she was “responding to verbal commands by raising two fingers of her left hand and even managed to give a thumbs-up.”

Today the news was even more encouraging.

Physicians at the University of Arizona Medical Center issued their most optimistic assessment yet of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords’s condition, with trauma specialist Dr. Peter Rhee telling a British television station that she was “100 percent likely to survive” after sustaining a gunshot wound to the head on Saturday.

“As a physician I’m going to get into a lot of trouble for this, but her prognosis for survival is 100 percent, as far as it being short term,” he said. “Hopefully she’ll live to be 95 years old.”

And Dr. Michael Lemole, the head of neurosurgery at the hospital, told the CBS “Early Show” that Tuesday could be a crucial day in determining whether the congresswoman would escape potentially damaging swelling of the brain.

I literally don’t know anything about brain surgery, but I can’t help but marvel at the very idea of someone being shot in the head at point-blank range with a Glock, having a bullet enter one part of the head and exit another, and having that person survive. It just amazes me.

Having said that, it’s probably worth emphasizing that the encouraging prognosis is only about her survival. We don’t know what the congresswoman’s rehabilitation would be like, or permanent damage she may have suffered as a result of the attack.

Rhee added this morning that he’s “very optimistic” that Giffords will not “be in a vegetative type of state,” but rather, should “make a fair amount of recovery.”

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Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.