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ARIZONA

Evacuation orders lifted in two towns

SPRINGERVILLE — Firefighters on Sunday expressed the first real sense of hope that they were making progress in their battle against a huge eastern Arizona wildfire burning since May, as officials began allowing roughly 7,000 residents to return home to two towns that had been threatened by the blaze.

“We’ve been praying every day to come home,” Valarina Walker said Sunday while chatting with other returning locals outside a convenience store in Springerville. The bed of her red pickup truck was overflowing with boxes of photo albums and family heirlooms.

“Just took what couldn’t be replaced, left the rest behind,” Ms. Walker said crying. “I’m just so happy and excited to be home. We thank God for those firefighters.”

Fire crews remained in Springerville and the nearby town of Eagar, guarding against flare-ups, but Apache County Sheriff’s Cmdr. Webb Hogle said residents could return home because the blaze was “no longer a threat to the citizens.” About 2,700 other people who live in several resort communities in the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest remained under an evacuation order.

CALIFORNIA

VA issued directive on care for transgender vets

SAN FRANCISCO — The Veterans Healthcare Administration is letting its hospitals and clinics know that transgender veterans are eligible for hormones, care before and after gender surgery, and mental health counseling as part of their regular benefits.

In a directive issued Thursday, the VA reiterated that its facilities are not permitted to perform genital surgeries on veterans in the process of changing genders.

But the agency confirmed that transgender patients are entitled to routine health care and to transgender-specific treatments such as hormone therapy and “long-term care following sex reassignment surgery.”

Transgender activists have been pressuring the VA for years to make such a statement. They maintain care of transgender veterans varies too much from facility to facility.

The VA quietly posted the directive but has not commented on it.

ILLINOIS

Weight-loss surgery doesn’t help older men

CHICAGO — Very obese older men hoping to live longer may be let down by a new long-term study that found weight-loss surgery didn’t increase survival for people like them — at least during the first seven years.

Earlier studies have found stomach stapling and other obesity surgeries improved survival rates after two to 10 years. The new study in mostly older male veterans suggests one of two things: Not everyone gains equally from surgery, or a survival benefit may show up later in older men, after more years of follow-up. Previous findings came mainly from studies of mostly younger women.

“Nearly all prior studies have found bariatric surgery to be associated with reduced mortality. But those studies were conducted on very different patient populations using less rigorous methods,” said lead author Matthew Maciejewski of the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Durham, N.C.

The patients’ organ damage from obesity could have been too far along for weight loss surgery to reverse it, some experts said.

MASSACHUSETTS

Chimp attack victim gets face transplant

BOSTON — A Connecticut woman who was mauled and blinded by a berserk chimpanzee has received a new face in the third such operation ever performed in the U.S. and is looking forward to chewing her meals again after months of pureed food.

Charla Nash underwent a full face and double hand transplant late last month, but the hands failed to thrive as she struggled with pneumonia and were removed, Dr. Bohdan Pomahac, leader of the 30-member surgical team at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, said Friday.

Overall, her recovery and future look excellent, Dr. Pomahac said. A chest X-ray shows the pneumonia has cleared, although doctors are trying to wean her from a breathing machine.

Miss Nash’s was the third full face transplant in the U.S. Her skin, underlying muscles, blood vessels and nerves were replaced along with her hard palate and teeth.

NEBRASKA

Cities on Missouri banks prepare for river cresting

OMAHA — The scramble is nearly over to fill thousands of sandbags and construct last-minute levees to heights that haven’t been needed in decades, but those preparations were only the first round of what’s likely to be a summer-long battle against the bloated Missouri River.

Peak flows are expected to arrive early in the week in riverfront communities in Iowa, Kansas, Missouri and Nebraska as the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers completes a gradual increase of releases from dams upstream. The surge through the lower half of the river this week will expose any weaknesses in the flood protections.

“They’re going to be as prepared as they can be,” said John Benson, spokesman for Iowa’s Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management Division.

The Corps said this summer’s Missouri River flooding could rival the record years of 1952 and 1993 in some places. Officials on Tuesday will increase releases from five of the river’s dams to 150,000 cubic feet of water per second — more than twice the previous record releases.

OHIO

Future of Cpl. Klinger’s beloved hot dogs in doubt

TOLEDO — A family feud slathered with accusations of financial misdeeds is threatening the future of an Ohio restaurant whose hot dogs were made famous by cross-dressing Cpl. Max Klinger on “M-A-S-H.”

The fight centers on the ownership of Tony Packo’s, a corner bar and grill that grew out of the Great Depression and whose chili-topped hot dogs, stuffed cabbage and roast beef platters continued to please fans even after the iconic TV show ended its run three decades ago.

“If you’re ever in Toledo, Ohio, on the Hungarian side of town, Tony Packo’s got the greatest Hungarian hot dogs,” Jamie Farr’s character Cpl. Max Klinger said on an episode in 1976.

The son and grandson of the restaurant’s namesake have been trading accusations for nearly a year, and each is trying to buy the company. The restaurant’s lender foreclosed on its loans, and a judge put a third party in charge of the restaurant while he sorts out the mess.

Both sides were in court Friday, when a Lucas County judge heard arguments on a number of pending motions.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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