Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Dengue situation

Death tolls from dengue fever in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa till date remained at 5 on Monday.
The updated report issued by the Directorate General Health Services, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa here today showed that so far 470 suspected cases of dengue fever were reported in various hospitals throughout the province out of which 205 were confirmed while 378 patients discharged and 78 still admitted.

Bushra Gohar : Politics As Unusual For A Pakistani Woman Amid The Taliban


With her short blond hair, penchant for driving her own car, and outspoken views, Bushra Gohar has always stood out in a crowd.

This is especially the case considering her upbringing -- she hails from Jhandha, a village nestled in Pakistan's Pashtun heartland in the northwestern province of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Province -- and her occupation.

The 50-year-old Gohar is a member of Pakistan's parliament, which is not groundbreaking on its own considering that by law at least 20 percent of the legislature is made up of women. But Gohar stands out because of her humble beginnings and the high-ranking position she has attained as a deputy of the Pashtun secular-nationalist Awami National Party (ANP).

Her choice of career was certainly unorthodox for a woman in the region's male-dominated conservative society. But Gohar always dreamed of promoting women's rights in all aspects, from their role inside the family to their participation in the highest levels of political decision-making, and that eventually led her to public office.

She made her dreams come true by getting a university education in the United States before returning home to set up her own women's NGO. In 2008 she took the next step by running for a seat in Pakistan's parliament, which she won and still holds today.

The Pashtun politician's road to success has been fraught with danger, however. The Taliban's influence in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Province has risen significantly in recent years, presenting a formidable obstacle to her meeting with constituents.

Taliban militants' attacks on everything secular -- from music stores to public schools and government offices -- have become a bitter everyday reality in much of western Pakistan.

Nonetheless, women remain the most vulnerable to the Taliban's hard-line rule.

Hundreds of girls' schools have been destroyed and or burned down by the militants. Working women have been forced to leave their jobs and wear the hijab.

"I received a written threat from the Taliban demanding that I leave politics," Gohar says.

The militants usually carry out their threats. At least three high-ranking politicians have been assassinated by the Taliban in the province since 2008. Two others narrowly escaped suicide attacks.

This is cause for most women to think twice before venturing outside the home to get a job, let alone a public position. But Gohar is adamant that she will continue her career in politics in defiance of Taliban threats.

"I have no intention of leaving politics because of the death threats I get," she says. "We all die one day, with or without the Taliban attacking us."

Humble Background

Residents of the village of Swabi say Gohar won their respect for helping the region get government funds for the construction of roads and much-needed electricity power lines.

Gohar's main focus, however, remains women's issues, especially the education of girls.

Gohar says neither the warnings from the militants nor other societal pressures should inhibit Pasthun women's participation in public life, including going to school or getting a job.

"During my election campaign in rural communities in Swabi district, I was surprised how housewives were interested in politics and they knew so much more about politics than many men," Gohar says of her 2008 campaign. "They would tell me they wanted opportunities to improve their lives."

Years on, Gohar continues to try to meet those expectations, most recently by convincing local authorities to build a women's sports center in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

Unlike many women politicians in Pakistan, Gohar does not belong to any political family or dynasty. The youngest daughter of a retired army colonel, Gohar is the only one in her family to pursue a career in politics.

"Gohar has always been different to any other girl in the rural area where she grew up, and that difference wasn't only in her sense of style or haircut," says Sadia Qasim, a journalist from Swabi District.

"Even long before entering politics, Gohar was a constant fixture at protest rallies demanding greater rights for women," Qasim says. "In 2005 she was among outspoken critics of a bill aimed to introduce Shari'a laws in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province."

Gohar's political plans now go beyond her native province. The girl from the remote Jhandha wants to change the way women's roles are perceived in Pakistani politics.

"Apart from the ANP, all political parties in our country have so-called women's wings. They give women a quota, which is not a bad thing in promoting women's participation," Gohar says of the 20-percent mandate.

"But I don't see the quotas as a privilege for women. We should work toward building a society that recognizes people on their merit, regardless of their gender. To achieve that goal we need to give women equal opportunities."

High-Flying Women

Gohar welcomed the recent appointment of several women from the ruling Pakistan People's Party to "more serious top jobs" such as that of finance, foreign affairs, and justice ministers.

"Previously, women would only get appointed to the social welfare department," Gohar says. "Now, the speaker of parliament is a woman, and several important parliamentary committees are chaired by women."
According to Qasim, women from Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Province want to see Gohar do more.

Female politicians such as Gohar are in a unique position to highlight the numerous problems faced by women, says the journalist from Swabi.

Qasim does have some criticism for Gohar, however, saying she focuses too much on "development issues, such as renovation of roads or gas and electricity shortages."

Qasim suggests Gohar should focus more on local practices affecting women's lives, such as honor killings, domestic violence and the tradition of handing over a woman to an "enemy's family to settle feuds."

"There are many similar practices and customs, which female lawmakers should [fight by engaging] in lawmaking and changing laws so that women's situation as a whole could change."

For her part, Gohar says she joined politics so she could help bring changes to people's lives, and is content with the life and the career she has chosen.

But that doesn't mean it has not come at a personal cost; she has never married and has no children.

"In my line of work, I found it simply impossible to find a balance between family life and a career in politics," she says.

Saudis hold protest rally in Qatif

Saudi Arabian protesters have held a rally in the city of Qatif, in Eastern Province, despite the heavy presence of police.

Protesters called for the immediate release of thousands of political prisoners and demanded the resignation of the Qatif governor.

Activists say several buses loaded with regime forces arrived near the site of the protest.

The protest rally comes less than one day after a similar protest in the city in which gunshots were heard throughout the night.

Hundreds of Saudis took to the streets in Qatif on Sunday to protest against the detention of two senior citizens. Saudi security forces took the two men hostage in a bid to force their sons, who are wanted by Saudi authorities for participating in anti-government protests, surrender themselves to authorities.

Witnesses say hundreds of Saudis gathered outside the police headquarters in Qatif, demanding their immediate release, but security forces dispersed the crowd using force. Many activists are reported to be injured in the violence.

According to the activists, most of the detained political thinkers are being held by the government without trial or legitimate charges and were arrested for merely looking suspicious.

Some of the detainees are reported to be held without trial for more than 16 years.

Attempting to incite the public against the government and allegiance to foreign entities are usually the ready-made charges brought against political dissidents.

Families of political prisoners have repeatedly pleaded with the ruling monarchy to at least give their loved ones a fair trial. But for years now, the families say, the king has ignored their calls.

Human Rights Watch says more than 160 dissidents have been arrested since February as part of the Saudi government crackdown on protesters.

According to the Saudi-based Human Rights First Society (HRFS), the detainees were subject to both physical and mental torture.

Immune system discoveries win 2011 medicine Nobel

Three scientists who uncovered key secrets of how the bodys immune system works have won the 2011 Nobel prize for medicine or physiology, the prize-awarding institute said on Monday.

Swedens Karolinska Institute said in a statement that the prize went to U.S. scientist Bruce Beutler, Luxembourg-born Jules Hoffmann, based in France, and Canadian-born Ralph Steinman, based in the United States.

“This years Nobel Laureates have revolutionized our understanding of the immune system by discovering key principles for its activation,” the institute said.

Beutler and Hoffmann shared one half of the prize of 10 million Swedish crowns ($1.46 million). Steinman died last Friday, the prize-giving committee and the university where he worked said on Monday. It appears the committee was unaware of his death at the time the award was announced.

An official at the Nobel committee of the Karolinska Institute, Anna Dumanski, said, "I can confirm that Professor Steinman has passed away," she said. She could not give any more details.

Rockefeller University said in a statement that Steinman, 68, died on Friday, September 30.

"He was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer four years ago, and his life was extended using a dendritic-cell based immunotherapy of his own design," the New York-based university said in a statement posted on its website.

The work of the three scientists has been pivotal to the development of improved types of vaccines against infectious diseases and novel approaches to fighting cancer. The research has helped lay the foundations for a new wave of so-called “therapeutic vaccines” that stimulate the immune system to attack tumors.

Better understanding of the complexities of the bodys immune system has also provided clues for treating inflammatory diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis, where the components of the self-defense system end up attacking the bodys own tissues.

Medicine is traditionally the first of the Nobel prizes awarded each year. Prizes for achievements in science, literature and peace were first awarded in 1901 accordance with the will of dynamite inventor and businessman Alfred Nobel.

The award citation said scientists had long been researching the immune response by which man and other animals defend themselves against attack by bacteria and other microorganisms.

Beutler and Hoffmann discovered receptor proteins that can recognize microorganisms attacking the body and which activate “innate immunity”, the first step in the bodys immune response, the statement said.

“Ralph Steinman discovered the dendritic cells of the immune system and their unique capacity to activate and regulate adaptive immunity, the later stage of the immune response during which microorganisms are cleared from the body,” it added.

Pakistan Should Stop Its Intervention In Afghan Affairs: US Ambassador

The US Ambassador had a meeting with the Balkh Governor Atta Mohammad Noor and assured of continued assistance of his country to Afghanistan.

The US Ambassador had a meeting with the Balkh Governor Atta Mohammad Noor and assured of continued assistance of his country to Afghanistan. After the meeting Atta Mohammad Noor told a press conference that the US ambassador emphasized on the US commitments towards Afghanistan and reiterated on his country’s assistance in ensuring security, reconstruction, training and increment of forces and promised that an industrial park will be constructed with the US assistance in Balkh province. At this press conference the US ambassador asked Pakistan to stop interference in domestic affairs of Afghanistan and should observe the treaty of good neighborliness with its neighbors. He added that the US policy towards Afghanistan is that policy which US president Obama wants it. He stressed that we are closing towards concluding of strategic treaty with Afghanistan. He asked the international community and those interfering in Afghanistan’s domestic affairs and is involved in murders, terror and insurgency should stop these destructive acts.

Suspected sectarian attack in Pakistan kills 12

Gunmen opened fire on Tuesday a bus in Pakistan's southwestern Baluchistan province in a suspected sectarian attack, killing 12 people, the second such attack in just over two weeks.

The attackers, who were in a pickup truck, intercepted the bus on the outskirts of the provincial capital of Quetta. Several people were wounded.

"The bus was carrying people mostly from the Hazara community who were returning from Quetta," senior police Hamid Shakeel told Reuters, referring to a Shi'ite Muslim ethnic minority.

Ten people were killed on the spot while two died in hospital. There were about 20 people on the bus.
Sunni Muslims militants loyal to al Qaeda and the Taliban regularly carry out attacks on members of Pakistan's Shi'ite minority. They have stepped up attacks in recent months.

A similar attack on Sept 20 killed at least 26 Shi'ite pilgrims in Mastung district while they were on their way to Iran.

No one claimed responsibility for Tuesday's attack.

Pakistan has seen a surge in violence since al Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden was killed by US special forces in a secret raid in a Pakistani town in May.

Militants have vowed revenge for bin Laden's death.

Sunni and Shi'ite Muslims have a rivalry going back almost 1,400 years, when Islam split over the successor to the Prophet Mohammad.

PML-N trying to avert masses’ attention from dengue

The Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), while condemning the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) rally against load shedding, said that the Sharif brothers were trying to avert attention of the citizens from the dengue issue since the provincial government had failed in coping with the epidemic. When contacted, Opposition Leader in Punjab Assembly (PA) Raja Riaz Ahmad, said that the Punjab government had failed to control dengue owing to late sprays and fumigation as well as lack of its interest in public related issues. Raja Riaz said that more than one hundred innocent people had died due to dengue uptil now, showing that the Punjab government had failed in controlling the epidemic. He said that the PML-N government was now trying to divert the attention of the citizens from the dengue issue, hence, it had started a campaign against the federal government in the name of load shedding.He said that if the Punjab government failed in controlling dengue then a protest rally in this regard could also be staged outside the CM’s Secretariat. PA Deputy Parliamentary Leader Shaukat Basra, while talking on the issue, said that there Sharif brothers were wrong in holding rallies against the federal government regarding load shedding as they already knew the factual position about the reasons of electricity shortfall. He said that Punjab CM Shahbaz Sharif was not serious in dealing with issues of public interest, like dengue, adding that this was the reason he did not attend any of the assembly session nor bothered to answer the opposition’s queries. Talking to Daily Times, PPP Punjab Information Secretary Dr Fakharruddin Chaudhry, said that the Punjab government itself had requested the federal government to stop water supply, adding that the electricity shortfall could not be met owing to this disruption in the hydropower production. Dr Fakhar further said that the Sharif brothers were fully aware of the electricity situation across the country as well as the efforts being made by the federal government to overcome it and yet they had started a game of political point scoring over the issue of load shedding, which was “unfair” and an “irresponsible act” on their part. Meanwhile, PPP Lahore Leader Hafiz Muhammad Ikhlaq said that although load shedding was a pressing issue, more people were dying due to dengue. He added that load shedding was a gift of the Nawaz Sharif and Musharraf governments, whereas the current PPP government had been trying to conquer the menace by increasing power generation.

Russia's Putin says wants to build "Eurasian Union"

- Russia's Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said he wants to bring ex-Soviet states into a "Eurasian Union" in an article which outlined his first foreign policy initiative as he prepares to return to the Kremlin as the country's next president.
Putin said the new union would build on an existing Customs Union with Belarus and Kazakhstan which from next year will remove all barriers to trade, capital and labor movement between the three countries.
"We are not going to stop there and are setting an ambitious goal -- to achieve an even higher integration level in the Eurasian Union," Putin wrote in an article which will be published in Izvestia newspaper on October 4.
Putin said last month he would run in the March 2012 presidential election and his current public approval ratings show that he is set to win.
Putin's initiative comes as Russia nears the end of its 18-year-old negotiations to join the World Trade Organization. In the article Putin made no secret of his skepticism about the global trade watchdog.
"The process of finding new post-crisis global development models is moving forward with difficulty. For example, the Doha round (of international trade talks) has practically stopped. There are objective difficulties inside the WTO," he wrote.
In 2009, Putin threw Russia's bid to join the WTO into disarray, saying Russia would instead form the Customs Union with Belarus and Kazakhstan. The new initiative will have to be explained to WTO members.
Putin, who once called the collapse of the USSR in 1991 "the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the 20th century," said his new project would not resemble the Soviet Union.
"It would be naive to attempt to restore or copy something from the past. However, a stronger integration on a new political and economic basis and a new system of values is an imperative of our era," Putin wrote.
Russia's relationship with its ex-Soviet neighbors has been troubled by trade and political disputes and even armed conflicts such as the 2008 war with Georgia.
Putin said he saw the new union as a supra-national body which would coordinate "economic and currency policy" between its members. It would also be open to new members.
Putin said that the Customs Union would expand to take in Central Asian republics of Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan. He also made a veiled criticism of Ukraine which chose to stay outside the union citing its commitment to European integration.
Some of Russian's neighbors were unwilling to commit to integration because this appeared to contradict their decision to build ties with Europe.
But this was a wrong choice, he wrote. He argued that the Customs Union and in future the Eurasian Union would be the European Union's partner in talks over the creation of a common economic space, guaranteeing its members a stronger voice.
"Membership in the Eurasian Union, apart from direct economic benefits, will enable its members to integrate into Europe faster and from a much stronger position."
Putin wrote that he saw the way out of the global crisis through a regional integration, mentioning the European Union, Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation, the North American Free Trade Agreement and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations as examples.
"These 'bricks' can assemble into a more stable global economy," Putin wrote.

Victims of folly of our own


Couldn’t our movers and shakers speak out in time what US secretary of state Hillary Clinton has confessed to now publicly? She admitted, going by a transcript of question and answer session by the US state department, that the US government, through the CIA, had funded jihadis like the Haqqanis “to cross the border or to, within Afghanistan, be part of the fight to drive the Soviets out and bring down the Soviet Union”. Yes, our spooks spoke this out just a short while ago and probably her confession was prompted by this. But it is not for weeks or for months but for pretty long that the Americans had been shouting from the rooftop that the Haqqani group of the Afghan Taliban was holed up in Pakistan’s North Waziristan tribal agency from where it launched attacks on the coalition forces in Afghanistan and that the Pakistani military was not going after the group to dislodge and dismantle it. Yet our security establishment sat quiet, letting the erroneous impression embed in the public minds worldwide that the Haqqanis were not only enjoying the protection and backing of the Pakistani state but were also its creature. And even as this world impression was gaining in currency because of the constant loud American refrain, none in Islamabad set out to put the record straight and offset the American tirade from poisoning the public minds against Pakistan. This country’s spooks couldn’t be unaware that the Jalaluddin Haqqani was the Americans’ much favourite and admired Afghan mujahideen commander during their proxy war against the Soviet invaders of Afghanistan and their principal handler of Arab zealots they had herded up from all around the world to fight that war. Nor could they be any ignorant how the American headhunters poached on rabid religious outfits worldwide, and armed, bankrolled and infiltrated their recruits into Afghanistan to fight on the side of their Afghan proxies there. The CIA had, to our great misfortune, taken our spy agency ISI on board of its adventurism in our western neighbour. So our intelligence people knew a lot about the Americans’ shenanigans and there was no reason whatsoever for them to be taken in for a ride so easily by the perfidious devices of the children of Uncle Sam. But outrageously they lovingly submitted and gyrated to the trickery of the American adventurists, who had showed no soldiering or manly spine of their own in their occupied Afghanistan after ousting the Taliban and dexterously heaped every indignity and insult on the Pakistan military, even as it had put up a tough fighting to the militants who for the timidity of the American occupiers had sneaked into our tribal territory as well as those spawned by the CIA in league with India’s RAW intelligence agency and Afghanistan’s spy service, the National Directorate of Security, A CIA subsidiary.Never ever Islamabad asked the American occupiers publicly to secure the eastern Afghanistan, which they for fear of fighting had let under the sway of the Afghan insurgents, principally the Haqqani group. Never ever the Islamabad establishment y made an issue of vacating intriguingly the few security posts that the American occupiers has established in the region when the Pakistani military mounted a powerful operation in our neigbouring Bajaur tribal agency to fight out obviously foreign-sponsored militants. After making a small short noise, our security establishment too went into silence on the massive flow of arms, munitions and infiltrators from across the border to refurbish the militants fighting against the military in the agency. Never ever it raised any furor over the widely known infestation of our tribal areas by the CIA and its colluding alien agencies. Only recently, sacked Afghan spymaster Amrullah Saleh bragged publicly of having infested our sensitive tribal areas vulnerably; and the CIA too stated having laid out its own spy network in the region. And yet our security establishment has refrained from telling the world whose men actually were the militants who threw the armed challenge to the Pakistani state in the tribal areas and nearby settled regions over these past few years and in whose protection are they living now in Afghanistan after escaping the Pakistani military’s powerful response. But for long will the Pakistani establishment keep getting the rap for the aliens’ acts of omission and commission and let the name of this nation and country to be sullied on every world street? Perceptions, it must know, matter and greatly; indeed, even more than realities. So will it ever stand up and lift its purdah to speak out some home truths to the world. Its silence fast, it must know, has hurt this nation badly for no fault of its own. In fact, the nation has become the worst victim of the folly of its own. If the movers and shakers of this establishment have no spine to speak out publicly, at least they can do it via background briefings and leaks to our own media, as do the others, principally the Americans.

Pakistanis at risk over world inaction on floods, warns UN

The United Nations warned on Monday that the international community had failed to respond to the latest flooding crisis in Pakistan, leaving three million people in urgent need of food handouts. The nuclear-armed Muslim state has suffered two consecutive years of floods but has been at increasing risk of international isolation since US troops found and killed Osama bin Laden near the capital in May. “Somehow the present flooding and the humanitarian impact of the present flooding has not yet picked the interest, the focus of the world,” said Ramiro Lopes da Silva, deputy executive director of the World Food Programme (WFP). “If we have no resources, we have no response,” he told a news conference in Islamabad after visiting the flood-hit province of Sindh. On September 18, the United Nations led an appeal for $357 million in emergency funding to shore up rescue and relief efforts for millions of people suffering after floods swept away homes and farm land in southern Pakistan. “The funding is not coming as swiftly and as fast at the levels it came to the response of the floods of last year,” said Lopes da Silva. afp

Salads are nice, but burgers are what really sell

Americans talk skinny but eat fat.
No matter that First Lady Michelle Obama

has been on a crusade for a year and a half to slim down the country. Never mind that some restaurants have started listing calories on their menus. Forget even that we keep saying we want to eat healthy. When Americans eat out, we order burgers and fries anyway.
"If I wanted something healthy, I would not even stop in at McDonald's," says Jonathan Ryfiak, 24, a New York trapeze instructor who watches his diet at home but orders comfort foods like chicken nuggets and fries when he hits a fast-food joint.
In a country where more than two-thirds of the population is overweight or obese, food choices are often made on impulse, not intellect. So, while 47 percent of Americans say they'd like restaurants to offer healthier items like salads and baked potatoes, only 23 percent tend to order those foods, according to a survey last year by food research firm Technomic.
That explains the popularity of KFC's Double Down, a sandwich of bacon and cheese slapped between two slabs of fried chicken. It's the reason IHOP offers a Simple & Fit menu with yogurt and fruit bowls, but its top seller remains a 1,180-calorie breakfast sampler of eggs, bacon, sausage, ham, hash browns and pancakes. It's also why only 11 percent of parents ordered apple slices as an alternative to fries in McDonald's Happy Meals.
The mixed message hasn't stopped many restaurants from offering healthier fare. After all, the government has stepped up its oversight — and influence — over the industry that it blames for America's expanding waistline. National rules about putting calorie information on menus are expected to take effect next year. And Mrs. Obama touts restaurants and companies that slash calories in foods.
But revamping a menu can be difficult and expensive, requiring months or even years. For example, it took Dunkin' Donuts four years to figure out how to make its doughnuts without trans fat — which doctors say is one of the unhealthiest types of fat — without altering the taste.
And efforts to curb unhealthy eating aren't always fruitful. In 2009, a year after New York made chains start listing calories on menus, only 15 percent of diners ordered lower-calorie foods, according to a study in the British Medical Journal.
As a result, many chains have scaled back their efforts to roll out healthy foods. The number of health-related claims made on menus, like reduced fat or reduced carbs, fell 5 percent from 2008 to 2010, according to Technomic's study of more than 1,200 restaurant chains.
Most restaurants won't share specifics about how their salads and veggie omelets compete when they're up against burgers and crepes. But the healthy stuff appears to be only a small proportion of revenue at most chains.
The IHOP pancake house, owned by DineEquity Inc., says that Simple & Fit sales have roughly doubled in the year since the menu was introduced. But it still makes up only a single-digit percentage of revenue.
The Cheesecake Factory, which introduced a "Skinnylicious" menu in August featuring entrees with 590 calories or less, says those foods have also performed well. But sales of its decadent cheesecakes are up too. "We recognize that 'cheesecake' is in our name," said Alethea Rowe, senior director of restaurant marketing.
There's a host of reasons for the disparity between word and deed. Sometimes people who eat healthy at home want to treat themselves when they go out. Others doubt that the so-called healthier items on fast-food menus are really healthy. Even peer pressure can play a role.
Jason Sierra, who was eating a Whopper hamburger and fries at a Burger King in New York recently, said he's cut back on unhealthy foods because his cholesterol and blood pressure were getting too high. But when his office buddies order lunch, he opts for "man food" like pizza to fit in.
"One day I did try to order a salad," said Sierra, 40, who works in tech support. "And I caught hell for that."
Healthier foods also are usually among the most expensive menu items, which can be tough for recession-weary customers to stomach. Efrain Vasquez and his wife, Evelyn, were recently eating fried chicken and gravy-drenched mashed potatoes at a KFC in New York. They say there's a big difference between a $2 burger and a $6 salad when you're on a tight budget.
"We've got bills to pay," said Efrain Vasquez, 51, a maintenance worker who's raising four kids with Evelyn, a 37-year-old receptionist. "We try to economize."
Like so many American dieters, fast-food restaurants have tried and failed to go healthy. The Wendy's Co. burger chain led the way in the mid-1980s with a short-lived effort to sell tomato halves filled with cottage cheese and pineapple chunks on lettuce leaves.
"Consumers weren't ready for it," said Denny Lynch, a spokesman for Wendy's, where burgers and chicken are the biggest sellers. "Or at least they certainly didn't buy it."
In 2003, during the low-carb Atkins diet craze, Domino's Pizza Inc. couldn't get people to bite on a low-carb pizza it tested in Indianapolis. "While many people at the time made their voice heard that they wanted it, few people actually ordered it," said Chris Brandon, Domino's spokesman.
McDonald's, the world's largest burger chain, says the fruit smoothies and oatmeal with brown sugar and raisins it rolled out last year are selling well, although it declined to disclose their revenue. "We would not have them on the menu if we were not selling them at a rate that we could sustain them at," said Molly Starmann, director of McDonald's family business category.
But the chain didn't always have such luck. It spent three years developing the McLean Deluxe, a 91-percent fat-free hamburger it introduced in 1991 only to suffer disappointing sales.
More recently, McDonald's got a lukewarm response when in 2004 it began offering parents the option of choosing apple slices instead of fries for Happy Meals. So, in July, McDonald's said it would stop offering a choice and instead serve a half portion of both. It had considered taking fries out Happy Meals completely, but nixed the idea when parents in tests said "No."
For now, restaurants continue to straddle the line.
Burger King Corp. this summer pledged to promote healthier foods for kids, but announced last week that it would sell ice cream desserts nationwide, including an Oreo brownie sundae with 530 calories and 17 grams of fat. KFC introduced grilled chicken in 2009, then launched the Double Down sandwich the following year. The 540-calorie, 32-grams-of-fat breadless sandwich started as a limited-time offering, but proved so popular that the chain ended up keeping it.
Andy Puzder, CEO of CKE Restaurants Inc., which runs Hardee's and Carl's Jr., said even though his restaurants offer salads and turkey burgers, he figures his best seller at Hardee's is probably the Thickburger. The most decadent version of it comes with two types of cheese, fried onions, mayonnaise and nearly half a pound of beef and weighs in at 1,170 calories and 83 grams of fat. (The government recommends that most people consume 2,000 calories and no more than about 70 grams of fat each day.)
"We have wonderful, healthy foods if people want to buy them," Puzder said. "But they don't sell particularly well."