Tom Brady wins Super Bowl No. 7, Buccaneers beat Chiefs 31-9

TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — Tom Brady made his seventh Super Bowl title look familiar - despite moving south to a new team and conference during a pandemic.

Brady threw two touchdown passes to old friend Rob Gronkowski and one to good pal Antonio Brown, and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers beat Patrick Mahomes and Kansas City 31-9 on their home field in Super Bowl 55 on Sunday.

The GOAT earned his fifth Super Bowl MVP award and extended his Super Bowl titles' record in his 10th appearance, his first without Patriots coach Bill Belichick. The 43-year-old Brady broke his own mark for oldest player to win a Super Bowl and joined Hall of Famer Peyton Manning as the only quarterbacks to win one with multiple franchises.

“I’m not making any comparisons,” Brady said. “Experiencing it with this group of guys is amazing.”

Stunningly, it was also easier than any of his previous Super Bowl victories, which came by an average margin of five points. This was also the first time Mahomes lost by double digits in his four-year career.


Senate Republicans back Trump as impeachment trial nears

WASHINGTON (AP) — Donald Trump’s defenders in the Senate on Sunday rallied around the former president before his impeachment trial, dismissing it as a waste of time and arguing that the former president’s fiery speech before the U.S. Capitol insurrection does not make him responsible for the violence of Jan. 6.

“If being held accountable means being impeached by the House and being convicted by the Senate, the answer to that is no,” said Republican Sen. Roger Wicker of Mississippi, making clear his belief that Trump should and will be acquitted. Asked if Congress could consider other punishment, such as censure, Wicker said the Democratic-led House had that option earlier but rejected it in favor of impeaching him.

“That ship has sailed,” he said.

The Senate is set to launch the impeachment trial Tuesday to consider the charge that Trump’s fighting words to protesters at a Capitol rally as well as weeks of falsehoods about a stolen and rigged presidential election provoked a mob to storm the Capitol. Five people died as a result of the melee, including a police officer.

Many senators including Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell immediately denounced the violence and pointed a finger of blame at Trump. Following the riot, Wicker said Americans “will not stand for this kind of attack on the rule of law” and without naming names, said “we must prosecute” those who undermine democracy.


UK vaccine gambles paid off, while EU caution slowed it down

SAINT-HERBLAIN, France (AP) — French pharmaceutical startup Valneva had big news in September: a government contract for 60 million doses of its coronavirus vaccine candidate.

The buyer? The United Kingdom — not the European Union, as might be expected for a company on the banks of the Loire.

“What a true waste," bristled Christelle Morancais, president of the Pays de la Loire regional council, as she tried to wrap her head around the missed opportunity. The British, she told The Associated Press, “rolled out the red carpet for this company, helping with financing and the set-up. ... And we were powerless.”

The U.K. has now ordered another 40 million doses and has options for more from Valneva, which has a plant in Scotland. The EU is still in talks with the company.

That pattern of Britain investing aggressively and early while the EU takes a slower, more cautious approach has been the hallmark of the vaccine race in Europe — and offers a window into problems that have dogged the vaccination rollout by the world's biggest trading bloc.


Super Bowl ads went for light humor. Not all succeeded

The mood on the field was tense during the Super Bowl as the Tampa Bay Buccaneers trounced the Kansas City Chiefs. Off the field, brands sought to relieve the tension of the game — and the year — with lighthearted commercials stuffed with celebrities and nostalgic characters.

They aimed to connect to the estimated 100 million viewers who tune in to the Super Bowl broadcast each year.

Cadillac updated the classic 1990 film “Edward Scissorhands,” M&M’s enlisted Dan Levy to show how a bag of M&M’s given as an apology can help people come together. And Will Ferrell teamed with GM — and Awkwafina and Kenan Thompson — on a madcap cross-country dash to promote electric vehicles.

Perhaps the most striking effect: Virtually none of the ads featured people in masks, a public-health priority but also a grim reminder of the ongoing pandemic.

With so many light spots, advertisers that took a different approach were more likely to be remembered. Jeep aired a two-minute ad in the second half of the game starring Bruce Springsteen urging people to find common ground. Oat milk maker Oatly opted for going weird.


140 are missing after glacier breaks in India's Himalayas

RISHIKESH, India (AP) — Indian rescue crews struggled to reach trapped victims Sunday after part of a glacier in the Himalayas broke off and released a torrent of water and debris that slammed into two hydroelectric plants. At least nine people were killed and 140 were missing in a disaster experts said appeared to point to global warming.

Video from India's northern state of Uttarakhand showed the muddy, concrete-gray floodwaters tumbling through a valley and surging into a dam, breaking it into pieces with little resistance before roaring on downstream. The flood turned the countryside into what looked like an ash-colored moonscape.

More than 2,000 members of the military, paramilitary groups and police took part in the search-and-rescue operation, including soldiers expert in mountaineering, working into the night under bright halogen lights, authorities said.

The flood was caused when a portion of Nanda Devi glacier snapped off in the morning, releasing water trapped behind it, authorities said. It rushed down the mountain and into other bodies of water, forcing the evacuation of many villages along the banks of the Alaknanda and Dhauliganga rivers.

A hydroelectric plant on the Alaknanda was destroyed, and a plant under construction on the Dhauliganga was damaged, said Vivek Pandey, a spokesman for the paramilitary Indo Tibetan Border Police. Flowing out of the Himalayan mountains, the two rivers meet before merging with the Ganges River.


George Shultz wasn't 'afraid to struggle against the odds'

WASHINGTON (AP) — Time was running out when Secretary of State George P. Shultz returned home in April 1988 after flying 16,000 miles in a failed mission to persuade Arabs and Israelis to negotiate their differences. Shultz said he would keep trying.

“Who’s afraid to struggle against odds?” he asked.

And so he did, in futility, until the Reagan administration ended in January 1989 without putting the Palestine Liberation Organization and Israel on a course to a settlement.

But he shaped the future by legitimizing the Palestinian Arabs as a people with a defensible stake in determining their future.

Shultz, who died Saturday at age 100, was one of America’s most respected 20th-century statesmen. He served in President Richard M. Nixon’s Cabinet as secretary of labor and as secretary of treasury and then pursued accommodation with an evolving Soviet Union as President Ronald Reagan’s top diplomat for 6½ years.


South Africa suspends AstraZeneca vaccine drive

JOHANNESBURG (AP) — South Africa has suspended plans to inoculate its front-line health care workers with the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine after a small clinical trial suggested that it isn't effective in preventing mild to moderate illness from the variant dominant in the country.

South Africa received its first 1 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine last week and was expected to begin giving jabs to health care workers in mid-February. The disappointing early results indicate that an inoculation drive using the AstraZeneca vaccine may not be useful.

Preliminary data from a small study suggested that the AstraZeneca vaccine offers only “minimal protection against mild-moderate disease" caused by the variant in South Africa. The variant appears more infectious and is driving a deadly resurgence of the disease in the country, currently accounting for more than 90% of the COVID-19 cases, health minister Zweli Mkhize said Sunday night.

“The AstraZeneca vaccine appeared effective against the original strain, but not against the variant,” Mkhize said. “We have decided to put a temporary hold on the rollout of the vaccine ... more work needs to be done.”

The study, which hasn't yet been peer-reviewed, involved 2,000 people, most of whom were young and healthy. The volunteers’ average age was 31.


In pandemic, more people choose to die at home

MISSION, Kan. (AP) — Mortuary owner Brian Simmons has been making more trips to homes to pick up bodies to be cremated and embalmed since the pandemic hit.

With COVID-19 devastating communities in Missouri, his two-person crews regularly arrive at homes in the Springfield area and remove bodies of people who decided to die at home rather than spend their final days in a nursing home or hospital where family visitations were prohibited during the pandemic.

He understands all too well why people are choosing to die at home: His own 49-year-old daughter succumbed to the coronavirus just before Christmas at a Springfield hospital, where the family only got phone updates as her condition deteriorated.

“The separation part is really rough, rough rough,” said Simmons. “My daughter went to the hospital and we saw her once through the glass when they put her on the ventilator, and then we never saw her again until after she died.”

Across the country, terminally ill patients — both with COVID-19 and other diseases — are making similar decisions and dying at home rather than face the terrifying scenario of saying farewell to loved ones behind glass or during video calls.


Next stop Mars: 3 spacecraft arriving in quick succession

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (AP) — After hurtling hundreds of millions of miles through space since last summer, three robotic explorers are ready to hit the brakes at Mars.

The stakes — and anxiety — are sky high.

The United Arab Emirates’ orbiter reaches Mars on Tuesday, followed less than 24 hours later by China’s orbiter-rover combo. NASA’s rover, the cosmic caboose, will arrive on the scene a week later, on Feb. 18, to collect rocks for return to Earth — a key step in determining whether life ever existed at Mars.

Both the UAE and China are newcomers at Mars, where more than half of Earth’s emissaries have failed. China’s first Mars mission, a joint effort with Russia in 2011, never made it past Earth’s orbit.

“We are quite excited as engineers and scientists, at the same time quite stressed and happy, worried, scared,” said Omran Sharaf, project manager for the UAE.


Review: Yawn, is it Monday yet? The Weeknd bores at halftime

NEW YORK (AP) — His name is The Weeknd but his Super Bowl performance felt like a dreary Monday morning.

The pop star headlined the Super Bowl halftime show, running through his many hits like an Olympic relay track team aiming for the gold. But he wasn't victorious Sunday night — no silver or bronze medals will be handed out here.

The Weeknd kicked off his 14-minute set in his signature red blazer and sunglasses, directing his robotic ensemble and singing “Call Out My Name." His nasally, semi-Michael Jackson-esque vocals shined — especially during “The Hills" and “Earned It" — but the performance felt like it was designed for a typical awards show in the vein of the Billboard Awards or MTV VMAs — not the Super Bowl stage.

Maybe he had restrictions — either creatively, or COVID-ly? Who knows, but overall his performance felt limited and inadequate. Special guests should have been a non-negotiable.

The Weeknd finally came to life — 10 minutes to the performance — when he and dozens of his dancers hit the field to perform the explosive hit “Blinding Lights," giving off flash mob vibes.

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