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The air quality in Portland has become the worst in the world — with Seattle, Los Angeles and Denver also ranking up there with notoriously polluted places like Delhi and Shanghai.

Why it matters: Big-city residents often consider themselves smugly immune to the physical wreckage of calamities like wildfires, floods and hurricanes. The pernicious smoke now blanketing the splendid cities of our nation's Western spine is a reminder that no one is exempt from climate change.

Where it stands: The EPA maintains a map on its website of the current air quality across the U.S. As of Thursday morning, Portland, Denver, Seattle, Fresno and countless smaller metropolises were girded by contour bands that signified "unhealthy," "very unhealthy" and "hazardous" air.

  • From Vancouver to Tijuana, the ozone and air-quality situation looked grim.
  • The threat is particularly grievous for children, the elderly and people with conditions like asthma or heart or lung disease.
  • Cloth masks won't protect against dirty air from wildfires, but N95 respirators — when worn correctly — can help.

Flashback: It's unthinkable to most Americans that Portland — which for years was lovingly mocked in the series "Portlandia" for its hyper-liberal eco-values — now has the worst air in the world, with an air pollution level deemed "hazardous."

  • The Air Quality Index (AQI) in Portland recently measured a whopping 303, according to a firm called IQAir; the runner-up city, with a measurement of 170, was Hanoi.
  • You can see a table of the cities around the world with the dirtiest air and their AQI readings here. The current top 20 include Portland, Seattle, Delhi, Los Angeles, Denver, Shanghai and Lahore.

Silver lining: San Francisco's air quality is currently considered "good."

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Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios. Photo: Ann Ronan Pictures, Bettmann/Getty Images

A look at the future of air travel as we head into the Thanksgiving holiday week while coronavirus cases are surging and the CDC is urging Americans to avoid travel.

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The Biden administration has put on hold two big arms deals with Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates which were approved in the final weeks of the Trump administration, a State Department official tells Axios.

Why it matters: The sales of F-35 jets and attack drones to the UAE and a large supply of munitions to Saudi Arabia will be paused pending a review. That signals a major policy shift from the Trump era, and may herald sharp tensions with both Gulf countries.

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Robert Downey Jr. launches VC funds to help save the planet

Robert Downey Jr. on Wednesday announced the launch of two venture capital funds focused on startups in the sustainability sector, the latest evolution of a project he launched two years ago called Footprint Collective.

Between the lines: This is a bit of life imitating art, as Downey Jr. spent 11 films portraying a character who sought to save the planet (or, in some cases, the universe).