Archive for September, 2018

Sep 26 2018

Golf looks to new initiatives to move forward – National

ORLANDO, FLA — Judging by the tens of thousands who flocked to the Orange County Convention Centre over the past week, the notion the sport of golf is dead seems, well, a touch exaggerated.

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The game, which has been struggling to attract Millennials and has seen rounds played decline in recent years, was at the receiving end of a thumping for the mainstream media last year. Maclean’s magazine ran a feature with the provocative headline, Why Canadian golf is dying? and numerous other magazines and newspapers noted the struggles of golf equipment giant TaylorMade, and U.S. sporting equipment retailer Dick’s Sporting Goods, which fired all of its in-house PGA professionals.

READ MORE: Must have gifts for the everyday golfer this holiday season

But the sports leaders, who were at this week’s PGA Merchandise Show in Orlando – a massive convention that showcases goods and equipment from across the sport from towels to sophisticated software—are hitting back at the notion the game is on a dangerous precipice.

“I think in the world in general, and especially in the golf world, there’s a difference between perception and reality and then it gets overblown and sensationalized and then that is what some people think,” says Ben Sharpe, the 41-year old CEO of TaylorMade who took over from longtime executive Mark King last year.

TaylorMade was at the heart of some of the sport’s bad press last year, as parent company adidas said revenue shortcomings in its golf business led to financial struggles for the athletic and apparel giant.

Sharpe said TaylorMade has already addressed some of those problems by trying to clean up inventory issues at retail and slowing down product cycles.

“Through our financial results we are showing that we’re taking responsibility and trying to clean up the market and cut through the sludge,” he says. “We’ve made some progress, though we still have work to do.”

Selling the sport to youth

However, there’s still genuine concern about luring younger people to a sport that is difficult and takes upwards of four hours to play. Numerous initiatives aimed at children and Millennials were on display at the show, from variations on golf to sophisticated mobile software designed to make the game more attractive to a generation that has grown up plugged into the internet.

One of the most discussed new ventures is Topgolf, where the sport mixes a driving range with elements of a nightclub and restaurant. The company, which is 35% owned by golf equipment maker Callaway, has been a huge success in the U.S. markets were it has been launched.

“It is killing it and it is a totally fun experience,” says Callaway CEO Chip Brewer. “It hasn’t made it to Canada yet, but it is only time before it makes it to all of the major markets.”

Brewer says it is OK for golf, a sport deeply linked with traditions and history, to break away from the notion it is staid and conservative.

“It has to be OK to crank some tunes when you play with golf,” he says. “That doesn’t mean Royal Montreal is going to do it, but other places will. Just like skiing and snowboarding exist together. And that’s great.”

©2015

Sep 26 2018

US scrambles F-16 jet fighters after Twitter bomb threats – National

WATCH ABOVE: Someone using an anonymous 桑拿会所 account wrote, “@DeltaAssist I have a bomb on one of your planes, but I forgot which one when I left the airport. Can you help me find it?”

ATLANTA – U.S. officials scrambled two F-16 fighter jets to shadow a pair of commercial airliners after bomb threats were made Friday against the flights on the social network 桑拿会所.

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The planes landed safely and law enforcement officials found no bombs aboard after they arrived safely at Atlanta’s main airport, said airport spokesman Reese McCranie.

The threats targeted Southwest Airlines Flight 2492, which arrived from Milwaukee, and Delta Air Lines Flight 1156, from Portland, Oregon.

The passengers were taken off the aircraft, and police bomb and dog teams examined both planes, authorities said.

The threats were posted on the social media network 桑拿会所, said Preston Schlachter, a spokesman for the North American Aerospace Defence Command. After being alerted, military officials sent two F-16 fighter jets from a base in South Carolina to escort the commercial aircraft to Atlanta.

Upon landing, the Southwest Airlines flight taxied to a remote area where the passengers and the aircraft were rescreened, company officials said in a statement.

“Our top priority is the safety of our customers and employees,” Southwest officials said. “We cannot comment on the nature of the security situation.”

©2015

Sep 26 2018

N.B. Medical Society tests school cafeteria menus, 54 per cent fail

FREDERICTON – School cafeteria menus across the province got a failing grade from the New Brunswick Medical Society with less than half meeting nutritional guidelines.

As part of their second Make Menus Matter project, the Society asked parents to send them photos of their child’s menus.

They were sent over 100 menus, representing 41 per cent of all schools across the province. Doctors and dietitians analysed each one.

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Of them, 27 per cent met provincial nutritional guidelines, while 54 per cent did not. It was not clear if the remaining menus, 19 per cent, met the guidelines.

“A lot of folks would have expected maybe some more advancement after the discussion we had in 2014 about ways to improve school cafeteria menus, unfortunately it doesn’t seem like we’re seeing that change yet,” said Anthony Knight, the Society’s CEO.

Dieticians looked for whole, balanced meals which included vegetables, a healthy carbohydrate or starch and protein.

“We know that obesity is a huge challenge facing New Brunswick and doctors in the province believe that we have to start early in people’s lives in influencing the choices they make,” Knight said.

Fredericton High School has revamped its cafeteria menu over the last two years. Now, students can find snacks at under 300 calories and a salad bar.

“I actually just moved here from out of province, from Winnipeg, and I’ve noticed a lot of changes in this cafeteria rather than the one at my old school,” said Grade 11 student Abbey MacLean.

“We had things like burgers and fries and here they even have the option of getting sweet potato fries and there’s vegetarian options which I didn’t have at my old school.”

The Medical Society will be releasing stories of schools serving exceptional food next week.

Sep 26 2018

UN expresses concern over Lebanon border battle with IS that killed 8 soldiers – National

BEIRUT – The United Nations Special Coordinator for Lebanon Sigrid Kaag expressed “grave concern” Sunday over a border battle between Lebanese forces and Syria-based fighters from the Islamic State group that killed eight soldiers, as the chaos of Syria’s war increasingly threatens the security of its Mediterranean neighbour.

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Kaag issued her statement as Lebanese television broadcast funerals of the soldiers killed during the fighting near the northeastern Lebanese village of Ras Baalbek on Friday, after what appeared to be a cross-border attack from neighbouring Syria.

A security official who spoke on condition of anonymity said the attackers belonged to the militant Islamic State group.

Kaag “expressed grave concern over the attack on the Lebanese army Friday in the area of Ras Baalbek, that led to the deaths of eight officers and soldiers and caused a number of injuries,” the statement said.

Friday’s attack was the most serious attack since militants seized over 20 Lebanese soldiers and policemen in a cross-border raid in August 2014.

On Sunday, Lebanese forces opened fire on suspected militants they said were in an abandoned amusement park on the eastern border with Syria.

©2015

Sep 26 2018

Pineapple Express moves north after drenching Vancouver – BC

The Pineapple Express that drenched the Vancouver area is now drifting north, with heavy downpours expected to pummel the central coast of B.C.

A rainfall warning for Metro Vancouver was lifted yesterday afternoon, after up to 98 millimetres of rain pelted parts of the southern coast.

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Environment Canada says the front is now moving north toward the central coast, with up to 200 millimetres of rain expected by Monday morning.

Heavy rain caused minor flooding in parts of the south coast of B.C. on Friday, including Burnaby, New Westminster, the North Shore and Stanley Park in Vancouver.

At least one charitable organization, the Lookout Society, opened its emergency shelters for the homeless in Burnaby, Surrey and the North Shore.

An Environment Canada forecaster said it’s unlikely that Vancouver will break any rainfall records with only 40 millimetres falling at the city’s airport. The hardest-hit area was in North Vancouver where 98 millimetres fell.

Greg Pearce said that so-called Pineapple Express fronts are not unusual for B.C., with about two or three reaching the province every winter.

Prince Edward and 33 Street in Vancouver. Credit: Sandra De

Still Creek Drive in Burnaby. Credit: Kriss Simpson

Credit: John Hastings

Loading bay near BCIT in Burnaby. Credit: Heather Abrahamson

Still Creek Drive in Burnaby. Credit: Ali Cameron

Guildford, Surrey. Credit: Caroline Rose

Still Creek Drive, Burnaby. Credit: Anjela Godber

Coquitlam. Credit: Kelly-Ann Brown

Queensborough. Credit: Faye Bona

Nanaimo and Broadway in Vancouver. Credit: Angel Williams

Richmond. Credit: William Kevin Hall

Langley. Credit: Kristen Nicole Kehler

Lumbermen’s Arch in Stanley Park

Vancouver Park Board

A Pineapple Express results when a strong flow of moist air that originates near Hawaii moves along the western coast of North America, causing heavy downpours.

“It just kind of keeps this strong flow of moist subtropical air pointed right over southern B.C.,” said Pearce, adding that the “pineapple” refers to Hawaii.

There’s one silver lining for Vancouver residents who recently braved stormy, wet weather. The weather will be unseasonably mild over the next several days, said Pearce.

“With the Pineapple Express pushing north, that will allow this large dome of warm air over California to push up into extreme southern B.C,” he said. “We’re forecasting near-record temperatures for daytime highs over the next couple days.”

The high in Vancouver was 11 degrees on Saturday, while the normal high is 7 degrees, said Pearce. He added there will be low clouds and drizzle over the next few days.

Environment Canada continues to warn central coast residents about possible washouts near rivers, creeks and culverts.

The B.C. River Forecast Centre issued a floodwatch for the Kingcome River in central B.C., which is expected to hit peak levels late Saturday or early Sunday.

Sep 24 2018

Winnipeg’s mayor vows to turn words into action to combat racism

WATCH ABOVE: Winnipeg Mayor Brian Bowman talks to Tom Clark about recent headlines declaring his city the most racist in Canada and what he will do to combat the problem

The front of the latest issue of Maclean’s magazine declares “Canada has a bigger race problem than America. And it’s ugliest in Winnipeg.”

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The city’s mayor says the problem is much larger than Winnipeg but in an interview on The West Block he admitted the article features stories and statistics Winnipegers will recognize.

“We do have some unique issues in Winnipeg and we’re working together as a community to tackle them head on,” Brian Bowman told Tom Clark.

The article focused on the treatment of aboriginal people in the city, and points to a string of recent events such as the death of 15-year-old Tina Fontaine, whose body was found in August wrapped in plastic in the Red River, and the attack on Rinelle Harper — the shy 16-year-old indigenous girl left for dead in the city’s Assiniboine River.

And it comes shortly after an inquest report into the death of Brian Sinclair, an aboriginal double-amputee who died during a 34-hour wait for care in a city hospital’s emergency room in 2008. Some staff testified that they assumed he was drunk – “sleeping it off” – or homeless.

“We do have one of the largest urban Aboriginal populations in Canada and it’s growing,” Bowman said. “And the majority of Winnipegers, of course, don’t share the views that we see in some of the hatred that has been demonstrated in Winnipeg and really across Canada.”

But he recognized he had to start a dialogue early. He’s been in office less than 100 days and he’s already had several meetings with indigenous leaders.

He says response from the community to this article has been heartwarming and gives him hope things can change.

“I think Howard McCurdy said it best when we had our press conference this week, that you know it doesn’t matter if it’s indigenous or non-indigenous, all Canadians are impacted by intolerance and racism and we all have the power to change course. And now is the time for us to come together as a community and move forward,” he said.

Bowman hopes to have some more tangible announcements in the coming weeks but vows to turn words in to action.

He said he hoped he could return to the show in a year and demonstrate how things have changed in that time.

with files from

©2015

Sep 24 2018

Ukraine: Phone calls prove rebels attacked city, killed 30 – National

WATCH ABOVE: Ukraine’s president says intercepted telephone conversations prove Russian-backed separatists are responsible for the attack on a port city that killed at least 30 people. Mike Armstrong reports.

KIEV, Ukraine – Intercepted radio and telephone conversations prove that Russian-backed separatists were responsible for firing the rockets that pounded Ukraine’s southeastern city of Mariupol and killed at least 30 people, President Petro Poroshenko said Sunday during an emergency meeting of his Security Council.

U.S. President Barack Obama also put the blame on Moscow, warning that the United States would work with European partners to “ratchet up the pressure on Russia.”

Separatist leader Alexander Zakharchenko initially announced that his forces had begun an offensive on the government-controlled city of Mariupol. But after the extent of civilian casualties became known, he backtracked and blamed Ukrainian forces for Saturday’s carnage.

WATCH: Dashcam footage shows Saturday’s shelling in the southeastern Ukrainian city of Mariupol

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The rocket attack came a day after the rebels rejected a peace deal and announced they were going on a multi-pronged offensive against the Kyiv government in Kyiv in a bid to seize more territory. The rebel stance has upended European attempts to mediate an end to the fighting in eastern Ukraine that has cost at least 5,100 lives since April, according to United Nations estimates.

In Mariupol on Sunday, emergency workers disposed of rocket fragments at the scene of the attack. Police said two unexploded rockets were found in a bank and an apartment building.

U.N. refugee agency workers handed out blankets to people left homeless or without heat because of the shelling, which hit schools, homes and shops.

“The city is in shock,” Mariupol resident Yelena Khorshenko said by telephone. “The streets are empty, and people are boarding up their windows and preparing for the worst.”

WATCH:Obama comments on Ukraine, Yemen and threat from extremism

READ MORE: Obama ‘concerned’ about Ukraine violence, approach toward Russia won’t change

Mariupol lies between Russia and Russian-annexed Crimea. Heavy fighting in the region in the fall raised fears that the Russian-backed separatists would try to capture the city to forge a land link between the two.

A peace deal signed in September envisaged a cease-fire and a pullout of heavy weapons from a division line in eastern Ukraine, but both sides have repeatedly violated the pact.

The United States was “deeply concerned about the latest break in the cease-fire and the aggression that these separatists with Russian backing, Russian equipment, Russian financing, Russian training and Russian troops are conducting,” Obama said during a visit to New Delhi.

“And we will continue to take the approach that we’ve taken in the past, which is to ratchet up the pressure on Russia and I will look at all additional options that are available to us short of military confrontation and try to address this issue.”

Obama said the U.S. would work “in close consultation with our international partners, and particularly European partners, to ensure that they stay in lock-step with us on this issue.”

—–

Associated Press reporters Evgeniy Maloletka in Mariupol and Julie Pace in New Delhi contributed to this report.

©2015

Sep 24 2018

Toronto woman returns to Auschwitz to mark liberation 70 years later

WATCH: Hedy Bohm, a Toronto woman who survived Auschwitz, tells her story and why it is important to remember. Sean Mallen reports.

TORONTO – On a cold January day in 1945, nine-year-old Miriam Friedman Ziegler watched as Red Army soldiers approached Auschwitz. An army photographer captured the historic moment: 13 wide-eyed children – Friedman Ziegler among them -staring out through a barbed-wire fence.

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The thought of freedom was a scary notion for the Jewish girl who’d spent a year in Auschwitz separated from the rest of her family.

“What’s going to happen to me now?” she recalls thinking at the time. “I have nobody.”

READ MORE: Historic gate stolen from former Dachau concentration camp in Germany

She would later reunite with her mother, but her father never made it out of the infamous Nazi camp alive.

Auschwitz has become a symbol of the horrors of the Holocaust, in which six million Jews were systematically killed.

WATCH: An extended interview with Hedy Bohm.

Friedman Ziegler, who lives in Thornhill, Ont., is among about 100 survivors who are returning to Poland this week to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz.

Going back is not easy for the 79-year-old.

“I swore I would never go back to Poland, but I feel it’s my duty now to do it,” Friedman Ziegler said during a recent interview with .

On Monday, she will reunite for the first time with four of the girls – now women in their 70s and 80s – featured in the iconic photo. A new photo will capture the moment. This time, however, it will be in the comfort of a hotel in Krakow – the emotions of having the photo taken at the nearby camp too overwhelming.

READ MORE: German prosecutors charge 93-year-old former Auschwitz guard

Leafing through photographs at her apartment north of Toronto, Friedman Ziegler kept returning to the black-and-white photo, where she looks bewildered, her left sleeve pulled up revealing her prisoner identification number – A16891 – that the Nazis tattooed on her skin.

“How come I am the only one showing my number? I don’t know what made me do it,” she said, adding that at her age, one army looked like any other.

READ MORE: Second World War concentration camp survivor tells her story

Friedman Ziegler’s journey began in 1940 in Radom, Poland, where her father ran a couple of stores. Life was idyllic, she said, until one day the Nazi tanks rolled into town. Her mother took off with Friedman Ziegler toward her grandparents’ house in a nearby town via horse and buggy. But the man driving the buggy tossed them en route, fearing for his life.

They hid in the forest during the day and walked at night, eventually reaching her grandparents’ home. The Nazis had not arrived, but they were coming. So Friedman Ziegler’s grandfather paid a sympathetic farmer to hide her. The farmer would take her to town to beg for food and money, introducing her as his niece. She fit in because she looked like many other Polish girls with long, blond hair.

On her walks along the countryside, she says she saw death. Dogs tearing at bodies, a family hanged outside their house. Shortly after she reunited with her family – a pattern that continued for years, sometimes hiding with strangers, sometimes hiding with her family.

Every now and then the Nazis would pin them down for a “selection” – in which they picked out people to take them away or kill them on the spot. During one of those “selections,” she watched her family line up outside along with her aunt Bella, who was holding her newborn baby in her arms.

“I could see what they were doing and I saw them shooting the baby,” said a teary Friedman Ziegler, her voice breaking with emotion.

When she turned eight, the Nazis loaded her and her parents in cattle cars and shipped them to Auschwitz.

The children were taken to the adjacent Birkenau death camp, where Friedman Ziegler found a few of her cousins and met many other girls who would later become lifelong friends.

The Nazi “selections” continued inside the camp, she said, but they became more sinister.

“Everytime they took out a few of the children for experiments some came back, some didn’t,” she recalled.

“All I remember is going to this big room with people in white uniforms and lots of tables with things on them,” she said. Later she couldn’t remember anything.

“I came back and had pain in my hips and legs and that’s all I know.”

Then one day the Nazis abandoned the camp temporarily and the children, including Friedman Ziegler, snuck off to Auschwitz where they raided the barracks for food and clothing and then returned to camp.

When the Nazis returned they asked anyone who wanted to walk to freedom to line up. They shot everyone in line.

Auschwitz was liberated on Jan. 27, 1945.

Alexander Vorontsov, a Red Army combat photographer, filmed the camp shortly after liberation, according to Anne Marie Stein of the USC Shoah Foundation. The photograph Friedman Ziegler appears in is actually a still image from the film, part of which was shown at the Nuremberg trials.

After Auschwitz, Friedman Ziegler spent time in various hospitals and orphanages in eastern Europe. Eventually, she came to Canada as part of a group of 1,000 child refugees. She lived for a while in Hamilton with relatives – memories of death and suffering still fresh in her mind.

One time, when she was told she was going to summer camp, Friedman Ziegler said she broke down in tears.

“I said ‘I’m going to another camp?”‘ she recalled. “Then they explained to me ‘No no, this is a nice camp. You’re going to ride horses, learn English, you’re going to have the best time in your life’, which was true.”

Two years later her mother came to Canada and the pair settled in Toronto. She eventually met her husband – also a Holocaust survivor – on a blind date. The couple has three children.

“I had a very, very good life,” she said. “I never dreamt that I would live in such a beautiful place.”

She has rarely spoken about what happened during the Holocaust, even with her family.

“I’m hearing some of these horrible stories for the first time,” said her daughter, Adrienne Shulman, who is accompanying her mother to Poland.

The interviews and media attention has worn Friedman Ziegler down. She’s emotional and ready to move on, but believes it is her duty to talk.

“I was lucky enough to live,” she said. “I want the world to know.”

©2015The Associated Press

Sep 24 2018

Boko Haram attacks biggest city in northeastern Nigeria, dozens of fighters killed – National

WATCH ABOVE: The Islamic extremist group Boko Haram is continuing its killing spree in northern Nigeria, taking 200 lives overnight. Aarti Pole reports

MAIDUGURI, Nigeria – In fierce fighting Sunday that killed more than 200 combatants, Nigerian troops clashed with Islamic extremists who attacked Maiduguri, the biggest city in northeastern Nigeria, from three fronts.

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  • Boko Haram leader claims massacre in Baga, threatens more

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At the same time the insurgents continued scorched-earth attacks on villages some 200 kilometres to the south in Adamawa state, slitting throats of residents, looting and burning homes and abducting dozens of trapped women and children, according to Vandu Kainu and other escaping survivors.

Adamawa state legislator Adamu Kamale appealed for troops to protect civilians in Michika, where six villages are under attack. “The attacks have continued since Friday with no presence of security operatives,” he complained.

READ MORE: Boko Haram leader claims massacre in Baga, threatens more

The multiple attacks come as U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry visited Lagos, Nigeria’s commercial capital more than 1,500 kilometres southwest of Maiduguri, to encourage peaceful elections on Feb. 14 in Africa’s most populous country.

“This will be the largest democratic election on the continent,” Kerry said. “Given the stakes, it’s absolutely critical that these elections be conducted peacefully – that they are credible, transparent and accountable.”

Kerry met with President Goodluck Jonathan and his chief rival candidate, former military dictator Muhammadu Buhari. Kerry told reporters afterward that he won pledges from both to refrain from violence.

He also issued a warning: Anyone responsible for inciting post-election mayhem will be barred entry to the United States, where millions of Nigerians live.

READ MORE: Boko Haram stages attacks in Nigeria and Cameroon as Chad troops fight insurgency

Kerry promised more U.S. support in the fight against Boko Haram if the elections take place peacefully and democratically.

More than 800 people were killed in northern protests after Buhari, a Muslim northerner, lost 2011 elections to Jonathan, a Christian from the south.

Boko Haram has denounced democracy and wants to make an Islamic state of Nigeria, whose population of about 170 million is divided almost equally between Muslims in the north and Christians in the south.

In Maiduguri, troops blocked roads into the city, which also prevented civilians from escaping.

“Coordinated air and land operations are being conducted now,” Defence Ministry spokesman Brig. Gen. Chris Olukolade posted on 桑拿会所. He said the 12-hour curfew in place in Maiduguri for more than a year is extended to 24 hours.

“We believe hundreds of thousands of civilians are now at grave risk,” Amnesty International said.

More than 200 combatants have been killed, mainly insurgents, according to soldiers and civilian self-defence fighters who counted bodies. They spoke on condition of anonymity because they are not allowed to speak to reporters.

READ MORE: International force mulled to fight Boko Haram insurgency in Nigeria

Boko Haram on Sunday morning seized the town of Monguno, 140 kilometres northeast of Maiduguri, and attacked Konduga, 40 kilometres to the southeast, according to a senior army officer who similarly sought anonymity.

President Jonathan made a surprise visit to Maiduguri 10 days ago and pledged to crush the insurgents. But his repeated promises are ringing hollow as Boko Haram since August has seized and kept control of large swaths of the northeast, including key border crossings into Cameroon, Chad and Niger.

With encouragement from the United Nations, Nigeria and its neighbours are setting up a multinational force to fight the extremists who recently have increased cross-border raids into Cameroon.

But there is distrust of Nigeria’s military, which many believe is infiltrated by Boko Haram at the highest levels.

The Maiduguri attack is not unexpected. Boko Haram on Jan. 3 seized a key military base and Baga town on the border with Cameroon, killing hundreds of civilians and leaving the main road open to Maiduguri. The military said they were counter-attacking a week ago. But escaping civilians said there was no fighting and the insurgents retain control.

Maiduguri is the birthplace of Boko Haram and has been attacked many times in the 5-year Islamic insurgency that killed 10,000 people last year.

Associated Press writers Ken Dilanian in Lagos, Ibrahim Abdulaziz in Yola, Nigeria and Michelle Faul in Dakar, Senegal, contributed to this report.

©2015

Sep 24 2018

Radical left-wing party wins Greek election, threatening market turmoil – National

WATCH ABOVE: Greek election officials say Syriza has won Sunday’s vote, but it is too soon to say whether it has enough support to form a governing majority.

ATHENS, Greece – A radical left-wing party that is demanding an end to Greece’s painful austerity measures won Sunday’s parliamentary elections, threatening renewed turmoil in global markets and throwing the country’s continued membership in the eurozone into question.

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  • Greece heads for early election, stoking financial concerns

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But Syriza, which is led by 40-year-old Alexis Tsipras, was still waiting to find out whether it would have enough seats to govern alone, or be forced to seek support from another party, either in a coalition or as a minority government. Greeks might have to wait until at least Monday after all the ballots are counted to find out whether they have a government.

Whatever the case, all eyes will be on the opening of world financial markets after Syriza beat Prime Minister Antonis Samaras’ incumbent conservatives.

READ MORE: Greek election: Who’s who

“What’s clear is we have a historic victory that sends a message that does not only concern the Greek people, but all European peoples,” Syriza party spokesman Panos Skourletis said on Mega television. “There is great relief among all Europeans. The only question is how big a victory it is.”

Official results from 54.2 percent of polling stations counted showed Syriza with 35.9 percent and Samaras’ New Democracy with 28.3 percent. Alarmingly, the Nazi-inspired Golden Dawn party — whose leadership is in prison pending trial for allegedly running a criminal organization — was in third place with 6.4 percent.

The Interior Ministry said that its projections, based on early returns, show Syriza gaining 150 seats. But it added that the margin of error meant that the final number could be 149 to 151, and a final result could not emerge until all votes have been counted.

If the communist-rooted party fails to win at least 151 seats, it will have to find a coalition partner, or secure pledges of support that would allow it to form a minority government.

Samaras conceded defeat, saying he had received a country “on the brink of disaster” when he took over in 2012 and was close to ushering it out of the crisis.

READ MORE: Greek election: end of austerity?

“I was asked to hold live coals in my hands and I did,” he said. “Most gave us no prospect of lasting out and we did. We got the country out of deficits and recession … and set the foundations for growth and a final exit from the crisis.”

Tsipras has promised to renegotiate the country’s 240 billion-euro ($270 billion) international bailout deal, and seek forgiveness for most of Greece’s massive debt load. He has pledged to reverse many of the reforms that creditors demanded — including cuts in pensions and the minimum wage, some privatizations and public sector firings — in exchange for keeping Greece financially afloat since 2010.

Greece’s creditors insist the country must abide by previous commitments to continue receiving support, and investors and markets alike have been spooked by the anti-bailout rhetoric. Greece could face bankruptcy if a solution is not found, although speculation of a “Grexit” — Greece leaving the euro — and a potential collapse of the currency has been far less fraught than during the last general election in 2012.

The election result will be the focal point of Monday’s meeting of eurozone finance ministers and Belgium’s minister, Johan Van Overtveldt, said there was room for some, but not much, flexibility.

“We can talk modalities, we can talk debt restructuring, but the cornerstone that Greece must respect the rules of monetary union — that must stay as it is,” Van Overtveldt told VRT network.

READ MORE: Europe on edge: terror crackdown widens

“As far as I am concerned, we can discuss the modalities (of the program) but it’s impossible to fundamentally change things,” he added.

But Syriza struck a defiant tone Sunday night.

“There is an expectation of economic relief for many, of a reboot of the economy and there will be a new debate on the servicing of the debt,” Skourletis said. “Europeans have accommodated themselves with the idea.”

Skourletis said the election results heralded “a return of social dignity and social justice. A return to democracy. Because, beyond the wild austerity, democracy has suffered.”

Syriza’s anti-bailout rhetoric appealed to many in a country that, in the past five years of its acute financial crisis, has seen a quarter of its economy wiped out, unemployment of above 25 percent, and average income losses of at least 30 percent.

But it has also renewed doubts over Greece’s ability to emerge from its financial crisis, and fears that the country’s finances could once again send shockwaves through global markets and undermine the euro, the currency shared by 19 European countries.

Hundreds of people turned out to celebrate outside Syriza’s main electoral kiosk in central Athens, waving flags and cheering.

The centrist Potami (River) party was battling for third place with Golden Dawn. Early official returns showed Golden Dawn slightly ahead with 6.4 percent, compared to Potami’s 5.9 percent.

If Syriza falls shy of the 151 seats necessary to form a government on its own, it will have to seek support from other parties — either in a minority government or as a coalition.

A Syriza government will see Tsipras becoming Greece’s youngest prime minister in 150 years.

©2015