The News You Missed From The Weekend

The science of mask mandates, Twitter’s wild past few days, and the best (alleged) cheating scandals of the year.

This is an excerpt from Incoming, BuzzFeed News’ morning newsletter dedicated to making sense of this chaotic world we live in. Join the club here.

Do masks really work at reducing COVID risk? YES, it is not a debate.

red face mask against a white background

How do masks work?
Respiratory viruses spread through respiratory droplets produced during breathing. These droplets are blocked when people wear masks, especially when the person exhaling that droplet-laden breath and the person potentially at risk for inhaling it are both wearing masks. Certain masks, such as N95s, also protect against smaller, airborne aerosols that can contain viruses.

Is there evidence that masks reduce COVID spread?
Many, many, many studies — the CDC lists 90 of them through 2021 — show that masks reduce transmission rates of COVID. And when it comes to mask mandates in the pandemic, the most rigorous peer-reviewed studies consistently demonstrate that mandates are associated with reduced rates of viral transmission.

The effectiveness of masks isn’t new information for doctors, who have worn them for decades. Think about it: Would you want a surgeon operating on you without one?

When should I wear a mask?
Public health officials in Washington state, Los Angeles, and New York are urging people to wear masks indoors — especially in crowded areas like public transit. Earlier this month, CDC director Rochelle Walensky also recommended people wear masks again during the holiday season to prevent the spread of respiratory viruses, including COVID, flu, and RSV.

Brittney Griner's first public comments since her return from Russian detention

  • "From the bottom of my heart, thank you to everyone for your help," Brittney Griner wrote on Instagram Friday, adding that she intends to play for the WNBA’s Phoenix Mercury this season. Griner has been receiving medical treatment in San Antonio since her return to US soil. That treatment has included participating in the Department of Defense’s Post Isolation Support Activities, a program that helps military personnel recovering from extended detention overseas readjust to normal life.

  • President Joe Biden secured Griner's release as part of a prisoner swap for Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout. Critics said the president should have done more to also secure the release of Paul Whelan, a former Marine who has been detained in Russia since 2018 on charges of being a spy, but the Biden administration has said this was the best available deal.


The TSA confiscated 6,300 guns at America's airports in 2022 — most of them were loaded. After a record number of weapons were intercepted at airport security checkpoints this year, TSA will increase the maximum penalty for a firearms violation.

Taraneh Alidoosti, one of Iran’s most prominent actors, has been arrested after expressing solidarity with protesters. Her arrest comes a week after the actor made an Instagram post calling attention to the first protester executed amid the protests in Iran.

The royal family's press offices initially failed to mention their communications with the producers of Netflix's Harry & Meghan. Communications reviewed by BuzzFeed News show that not only had the press representatives been contacted, one of the top palace communications officials tried to get advance footage.

James Cameron commissioned a scientific study to settle the long-running debate over whether Jack could have joined Rose on her makeshift raft in Titanic. “We took two stunt people who were the same body mass of Kate and Leo and we put sensors all over them and inside them and we put them in ice water and we tested to see whether they could have survived through a variety of methods and the answer was, there was no way they both could have survived,” the director said.

A timeline of Elon Musk’s banning and unbanning of journalists on Twitter

Elon Musk looking exhausted

Thursday, Dec. 15: Twitter “permanently suspended” more than half a dozen journalists from outlets including CNN, the New York Times, and the Washington Post. The reporters had been covering the story of Twitter banning @ElonJet, an account that tweeted the whereabouts of Musk’s personal private jet using publicly available data.

Musk showed up in a Twitter Space discussing these bans, hosted by BuzzFeed News tech reporter Katie Notopoulos. Musk abruptly left the Space in the middle of Notopoulos trying to ask him a question. Shortly after his appearance, the Space suddenly ended without warning, and Twitter’s entire Spaces function was removed from the site.

Friday, Dec. 16: Spaces are restored Friday afternoon.

Saturday, Dec. 17: As of Saturday morning, Twitter reinstated the accounts of several of the banned journalists. However, Business Insider's Linette Lopez, who has written investigations about Musk's electric car company Tesla, and former MSNBC anchor Keith Olbermann remained suspended.

Sunday, Dec. 18: Twitter banned posting links to other social platforms. Minutes after the World Cup final, Twitter announced a new rule: no more promoting your on Facebook, Instagram, Mastodon, Truth Social, Tribel, Post, Nostr, and other social accounts.

In a Twitter poll on Sunday night, Musk asked if he should step down as head of Twitter.


The juiciest (alleged) cheating scandals of 2022

Adam Levine
The votes are in, and by a wide margin, the day that the Adam Levine sexting scandal broke was the best day on the internet in 2022. The screenshots of Levine’s alleged sexts were the talk of the town in part for their goofiness — it was a comfort and a delight to have a collective laugh at how absurd these sexts were specifically — but also for how ridiculous sexting is in general. There are no objectively good sexts, only less bad sexts. —Elamin Abdelmahmoud

Hans Niemann
In September, 19-year-old Hans Niemann won a game against 32-year-old world champion Magnus Carlsen at the Sinquefield Cup, a tournament with a $350,000 purse. Carlsen quit the tournament the next day and suggested in a tweet that Niemann had cheated. A joke about Niemann using vibrating anal beads to get signals about what moves to make quickly spread on social media. There’s a lot that remains to be settled, but the controversy raises provocative questions about how a self-professed cheater can find redemption, and how the world’s best chess player decided to voice concerns about his younger opponent. —Venessa Wong

The Try Guys
I’ve never seen thousands of people latch onto a hitherto unfamiliar concept the way they did with the Try Guys in September. The incident yielded all the internet’s favorite hallmarks of scandal: a Notes app apology (“I lost focus and had a consensual workplace relationship,” Ned wrote); a professional breakup (Fulmer and the Try Guys parted ways); and an Instagram plea for privacy (Ariel’s). It seems unlikely that kind of online unity will happen again soon, which is too bad for all the actual world problems we’re ignoring while we fixate on juicy minutiae about niche internet celebrities. —Estelle Tang

More cheaters can be found here.

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