PBS NewsHour


Potty-trained cows, McDonald’s ends plastic toys | 5 STORIES

"5 STORIES'' serves up five stories that you may have missed. On this week’s episode: McDonand’s will end fossil-fuel-based plastic in Happy Meal toys, a Kansas boy sparks a federal investigation into invasive spotted lanternflies, advocates successfully extend protections of Amazonian tribe, researchers teach cows to use the potty and a new app helps treat spider phobias using augmented reality.

AIRED: September 24, 2021 | 0:04:52

Hey, everyone I'm Deema Zein.

Here are five stories you may have

missed, starting with:.

I'm loving it.

McDonald's Happy Meals are getting a

little happier - by going green.

On Tuesday, the company announced

they will drastically cut its use of

plastic by the end of 2025.

One way to do that is by replacing

the 1 billion children's toys it

sells each year with cardboard or

recycled or plant based plastics.

The move will help to cut the

company's use of virgin fossil

fuel-based plastic for Happy Meals

by 90 percent.

And the switch is already underway

in some countries, like France,

where kids can choose between a

green toy or a book.

By 2025, McDonald's also

hopes to source 100 percent of gas

packaging from renewable, recycled

or certified sources and recycle

all the packaging guests use in its


I guess this kind of makes up for

their constantly broken McFlurry


Lanternfly Discovery.

Imagine showcasing a bug collection

at your state fair and suddenly

triggering a federal investigation.

Well, according to The Washington

Post, that's what happened to one

boy at a Kansas state fair earlier

this month. Among his specimens: a

rare and dangerous insect known as

the Spotted Lanternfly.

He found it dead on his home patio

in Thomas County, Kansas in May.

Spotted lanternflies are an invasive

species from China and are thought

to have snuck into the U.S.

Via Pennsylvania in 2014.

They've also been spotted in New

York, Maryland, New Jersey and

Virginia, but haven't made it

further west than southern Indiana

- until now.

So why are spotted lanternflies

considered dangerous?

The hitchhiking pest is known to

feed on at least 70 tree and crop

species - including grapes, apples

and hops. But it's their poop that's

the problem. It promotes a fungal

growth called "Sooty Mold" that

block sunlight from reaching the

leaves, ultimately killing the

plant. And that could mean major

trouble for agriculture and logging

industries. So if you see any of the

little buggers, experts say, to kill

them right away and double back any

egg masses before throwing them in

the trash.

Tribe Protection.

The Piripkura tribe in Brazil has

barely had any contact with the

outside world.

For the record this footage is of a

different Amazon tribe.

Piripkura live in isolation on

the ancestral lands in central

Brazil. And get this, only

two male members of the tribe have

ever had brief encounters with

anyone outside their own community

- before disappearing back into the

Amazon forest.

So, that's super interesting but

why am I talking about it?

Well, Brazil's indigenous affairs

agency renewed a protection order

earlier this month for the tribe's

nearly 600,000 acres of ancestral

lands, but only for six

months. Indigenous rights advocates

have been pushing for a three year

expansion of the order that's been

in place since 2008.

Like other Amazonian tribes,

Piripkura members live off the land.

But Brazil doesn't officially

recognize tribal land ownership, and

that means they must continuously

resist encroaching poachers, farmers

and miners. Those threats have

increased since the 2018 election of

President Jair Bolsonaro.

So the 6-month order is helpful, but

that's not stopping Bolsonaro from

backing legislation that would open

up tribal reservations for

commercial mining and crop


The Moo-Loo.

When you got to go, you got to go.

It's true for humans and for cows.

And just like us, cows can

apparently be potty-trained.

Yes, you heard that right!

In a recent study, German-led

researchers showed cows can be

trained to "use the toilet" or

"Moo-Loo" as they called it.

But one might ask, why?

Well, by collecting and treating cow

urine, farmers could reduce

greenhouse gas emissions.

According to the Guardian, when

ammonia in cow urine soaks into the

soil, microbes convert it into

nitrous oxide, also known as

laughing gas.

And nitrous oxide has nearly 300

times the global warming potential

of carbon dioxide.

So how did they potty train the

cows? They use a reward-and mild

punishment system.

If a calf urinated in the Moo Loo,

they got a treat like a sweet drink

or mashed barley.

If they went anywhere else, they

received a quick three second

shower. That'll wake you up!

According to the Current Biology

study, within a few weeks the

research team successfully trained

11 out of 16 calves.

The others, they thought, just

needed more time.

Nitrous oxide emissions from human

activities, including cattle

farming, have increased 30 percent

in the past four decades.

And that's no laughing matter.

Augmented Reality "Therapy."

How many of you are scared of

spiders? Like, really, really

scary? Well, fear spiders is a

pretty common phobia. And it can

really disrupt someone's life in

severe cases - think avoiding

outdoor gatherings or excessively

checking rooms for signs of


But what if they could seek treatment

with an app?

University of Basel researchers have

created the "Phobys" app, which uses

augmented reality as a kind of

exposure therapy.

Essentially, it lets participants

interact with a spider virtually to

slowly overcome their fear.

In the small study of about 60

participants, those who did six

sessions with the app had a reduced

fear of spiders and were able to get

closer to a real life specimen than

those who didn't use it at all.

It's a small preliminary study, but

the app, which is available for

purchase, does show promise.

Just be sure to use it under

professional supervision.

For the PBS NewsHour and until next

week, this is 5 STORIES.

Have a great weekend.

One more thing, don't forget to

click here for another episode of



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