Reuters World News Summary

Following is a summary of current world news briefs.

Merkel protegee struggles to assert control after far-right row

Chancellor Angela Merkel's would-be successor, Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, struggled to assert her control over her conservative party on Friday after a regional branch defied her by backing a local leader helped into office by the far right. The local branch of Kramp-Karrenbauer's Christian Democrats (CDU) in the eastern state of Thuringia sided with the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) this week in a secret ballot to oust a leftist as state premier.

Russia holds key to Idlib's fate as Syrian army advances

Wary of a confrontation with Turkey that could suck Moscow into a military quagmire, Russia is likely to take a gradual approach to helping the Syrian government capture the last rebel bastion of Idlib, analysts and diplomats say. President Bashar al-Assad's army, aided by heavy Russian air strikes, has swept through dozens of towns in Idlib province in the last two weeks in the deepest advance in years, forcing tens of thousands to flee to the Turkish border.

Cruise line bans China citizens; Outrage as doctor who sounded coronavirus alarm dies

A major cruise line on Friday took the extraordinary step of banning citizens of China regardless of when they were last there, while there was sorrow and anger over the coronavirus death of a doctor from Wuhan who had been reprimanded for sounding an early warning about the disease. The death of Li Wenliang, 34, came as President Xi Jinping reassured the United States and the World Health Organization (WHO) of transparency and maximum effort to combat the virus.

NTSB says Bryant helicopter engines showed no signs of catastrophic internal failure

The engines of the Sikorsky S-76 helicopter that crashed into a steep hillside killing basketball superstar Kobe Bryant and 8 others near Calabasas, California on Jan. 26 showed no evidence of a "catastrophic internal failure," the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) said Friday. The NTSB investigative update said "viewable sections of the engines showed no evidence of an uncontained or catastrophic internal failure."

Russia foreign minister slams U.S. sanctions during visit to Venezuela

Russia's foreign minister on Friday slammed U.S. sanctions against Venezuela during a visit to Caracas, providing a public show of support for President Nicolas Maduro as Washington mulls ramping up pressure on the South American nation. Sergei Lavrov arrived in Caracas on Thursday, only hours after the U.S. State Department suggested its Venezuela sanctions program could begin targeting Russia, whose oil companies have helped Maduro by buying much of the OPEC nation's crude.

Coronavirus brings China's surveillance state out of the shadows

When the man from Hangzhou returned home from a business trip, the local police got in touch. They had tracked his car by his license plate in nearby Wenzhou, which has had a spate of coronavirus cases despite being far from the epicenter of the outbreak. Stay indoors for two weeks, they requested. After around 12 days, he was bored and went out early. This time, not only did the police contact him, so did his boss. He had been spotted near Hangzhou's West Lake by a camera with facial recognition technology, and the authorities had alerted his company as a warning.

Coach who hired Michael Avenatti says he wanted to expose Nike, not in press conference

The government's star witness in Michael Avenatti's extortion trial conceded on Friday he wanted to expose Nike Inc's alleged illegal payments to families of college basketball recruits long before he hired the celebrity lawyer. Gary Franklin, the founder and coach of youth basketball team California Supreme, nevertheless maintained that Avenatti never told him he might hold a press conference about the accusations, or wanted Nike to hire him for a costly internal probe, or else would seek $22.5 million to buy his silence.

Passenger plane makes emergency landing to avoid coming under Syrian fire: Russia

A passenger plane carrying 172 passengers from Tehran to Damascus made an emergency landing at the Russian-controlled Hmeimim Air Base in Syria on Thursday to avoid coming under fire from Syrian air defenses, Russia said on Friday. The Syrian forces were responding to Israeli strikes on targets in Syria, Defense Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov was quoted as saying by Interfax and other Russian agencies.

Canadian lawyers file lawsuit against Iran over victims of downed Ukrainian plane

Canadian lawyers, who previously successfully sued Iran, are seeking class action status in a lawsuit on behalf of victims aboard a Ukrainian plane shot down over Tehran last month, looking for at least C$1.5 billion ($1.1 billion) in compensation. The suit names Iran, its supreme leader, the elite Revolutionary Guards and others as defendants.

UK's Prince Harry speaks at JP Morgan event in Miami: royal source

Britain's Prince Harry and his wife Meghan attended an event organized by American bank JP Morgan in Miami, Florida, on Thursday, a royal source said, one of the couple's first engagements since stepping down from royal duties. The source said Harry, Queen Elizabeth's grandson, spoke at the event although he was not believed to have given a keynote address. It was not known whether he was paid.