'Start Here': Top Iranian general killed in US airstrike and Australia wildfires intensify

Here's what you need to know to start your day.

January 3, 2020, 5:03 AM

It's Friday, Jan. 3, 2019. Let's start here.

1. Iranian general killed

Qassem Soleimani, the leader of Iran's elite Quds Force, was killed late Thursday in a U.S. airstrike that targeted a convoy near the airport in Baghdad, the U.S. Department of Defense confirmed in a statement to ABC News.

"General Soleimani was actively developing plans to attack American diplomats and service members in Iraq and throughout the region," the statement said, adding Soleimani and the Quds Force "orchestrated attacks on coalition bases in Iraq over the last several months -- including the attack on December 27th -- culminating in the death and wounding of additional American and Iraqi personnel."

On today's "Start Here," ABC News contributor and former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense Mick Mulroy breaks down the implications of the airstrike and the future of U.S. relations with Iran.

2. Australia burning

Wildfires continue to ravage Australia, burning more than 12 million acres and killing at least 17 people.

In New South Wales and Victoria, the country's two most populous states, there are an estimated 200 active fires, according to ABC News' Maggie Rulli.

"What you see alongside the highway it's just burnt tree, burnt tree, burnt tree," she says. "The fires are so big, they are butting up into communities, they're demolishing communities, they're pushing communities right up to the beach."

A firefighter hoses down trees and flying embers in an effort to secure nearby houses from bushfires near the town of Nowra in the Australian state of New South Wales, Dec. 31, 2019.
Saeed Khan/AFP/Getty Images

3. Democrats and diversity

Julian Castro is the latest Democratic candidate to drop his 2020 presidential bid with the Iowa caucuses just a month away.

The former housing secretary faced low polling and limited name recognition, but as the only Latino in the race, he was outspoken about increasing diversity in the party.

FiveThirtyEight's Perry Bacon Jr. talks about the electability conversation Democrats are having and why African-American and Latino voters aren't necessarily supporting candidates of color.

"I do think electability has become translated into who can win white men in the Midwest," he says. "Barack Obama was from Chicago, but I do wonder in this environment if he would have had more trouble if every conversation was about electability."

Julian Castro participates in a debate from Texas Southern University's Health & PE Center in Houston, Sept. 12, 2019.
Heidi Gutman/Walt Disney Television

4. Tinslee Lewis

A Texas judge ruled on Thursday that a hospital could end life support for 11-month-old Tinslee Lewis, who was born with a rare heart defect and suffers from lung disease, against her family's wishes.

Tinslee's doctors at Cook Children's Medical Center believe her condition is terminal and the treatment keeping her alive is causing her pain. ABC affiliate WFAA-TV reported that Dr. Jay Duncan testified last month, "There are no more treatments we can do to Tinslee for improvement. She is in pain.”

The hospital has invoked Texas' “10-day rule,” which allows a 10-day period for the patient's family to find a new medical provider before doctors withdraw life support.

More than a dozen other medical facilities across the country are refusing to take Tinslee as a patient and agree with Cook Children's assessment, according to the hospital.

Joe Nixon, the Lewis family's attorney, says they're appealing the ruling and he argues on "Start Here" that it should be Tinslee's mother's decision to take her baby off life support.

"Start Here," ABC News' flagship podcast, offers a straightforward look at the day's top stories in 20 minutes. Listen for free every weekday on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, iHeartRadio, Spotify, Stitcher, TuneIn or the ABC News app. Follow @StartHereABC on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram for exclusive content and show updates.


'A devastating blow': Democrats have seized on freshly leaked emails in which a White House budget official told the Pentagon last August that it would keep its freeze in U.S. assistance to Ukraine at the “clear direction from POTUS,” despite repeated warnings by the Defense Department that the move could violate the law.

'Too many officers': A record number of current or former police officers died by suicide last year, according to Blue H.E.L.P., a nonprofit that works to reduce stigmas tied to mental health issues for those in law enforcement.

'Request to law enforcement': Lebanon has received a wanted notice from Interpol over former Nissan and Renault executive Carlos Ghosn, who dramatically fled Japan this week ahead of his upcoming trial on charges of financial misconduct.

From our friends at FiveThirtyEight:

Following the decision by Julian Castro to suspend his presidential campaign, an analysis by FiveThirtyEight shows that the former HUD secretary never really found his base.

Doff your cap:

It's not often you can doff your cap to a machine, but a medical study from a team of international researchers suggests it's warranted.

The machine is a Google artificial intelligence system, and the study credits it with predicting breast cancer in mammography scans more accurately that human experts and radiologists.

"This is a huge advance in the potential for early cancer detection," said Dr. Mozziyar Etemadi, the co-author of the study and a professor at Northwestern University. "We hope this will ultimately save a lot of lives."