Royal wedding, Kushner-Qatari deal, $500,000 whiskey

Good morning, Quartz readers!

What to watch for today and over the weekend

The EU makes a last-ditch effort to block Trump’s Iran sanctions. The European Commission plans to activate a statute today that would punish any EU company that curtails its business in Iran due to US sanctions. Meanwhile German chancellor Angela Merkel and Russia’s Vladimir Putin will meet in Sochi today to discuss salvaging the Iran nuclear deal.

Britain’s royal wedding. The nuptials of Meghan Markle and Prince Harry will take place on May 19 at 12pm BST with much fanfare—though 66% of Brits say they don’t care that much about the event.

Venezuela holds a presidential election amid a worsening crisis. Autocratic leader Nicolás Maduro is widely expected to be re-elected on Sunday after the opposition coalition opted to boycott the contest, saying the vote is rigged.

While you were sleeping

The US Senate approved Gina Haspel as the first female director of the CIA. The veteran intelligence officer, who faced criticism for overseeing harsh interrogation techniques, assured lawmakers she would never again condone such programs. She also pledged to cooperate with special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation of the Trump administration.

China dropped an anti-dumping probe of US sorghum imports. The conciliatory gesture was made as officials meet in Washington to head off a trade war between the world’s two biggest economies. China has reportedly offered the Trump administration a package to slash the US trade deficit by up to $200 billion.

Ivanka Trump’s in-laws are close to a massive deal with a Qatari-backed property firm. Kushner Companies, the real-estate firm owned by Jared Kushner’s family, is in talks with Brookfield Property Partners to bail out a troubled Manhattan skyscraper (paywall), the New York Times reports. The Qatari sovereign wealth fund is a major investor in Brookfield.

An eruption of Hawaii’s Kilauea volcano sent ash nearly 6 miles (9 km) into the sky. Authorities warned that the steam-fueled blast could set the stage for a string of strong explosions. Some residents were warned to take shelter against ash fallout and a spike in toxic sulfur dioxide gas.

Quartz Obsession interlude

Josh Horwitz on the “SoftBank of China.” “Tencent, the social media company best known for its messaging app WeChat, has been funding dozens of Chinese and overseas companies over the past few years at an astonishing rate… What’s not clear is whether or not Tencent, like SoftBank, has a grand vision that explains its disparate investments.” Read more here.

Matters of debate

US cities should be catering to freelancers instead of courting Amazon. Trends point to most of the workforce being independent in less than a decade.

Time is an illusion. Chronology and continuity are just a story we tell ourselves to make sense of existence.

John Bolton is pushing all the wrong buttons in North Korea. The White House’s resident warmonger may be intentionally sabotaging peace talks.

Surprising discoveries

Bitcoin is on track to consume 0.5% of the world’s electricity this year. That’s about as much as the Netherlands; meanwhile, the energy footprint for mining cryptocurrencies is doubling every six months.

Daring investors are buying real estate near North Korea’s borders. Property prices are rising along both the Chinese and South Korean borders as speculators bet on peace.

A prison research project may finally tell us if salt is unhealthy. The study plans to use inmates as guinea pigs for low-sodium diets.

US security regulators created a parody cryptocurrency. The SEC’s HoweyCoins ICO is an elaborate warning against scammers.

Two bottles of Scotch could be auctioned for more than $1 million this weekend. The 60-year-old bottles (paywall) of 1926 Macallan could go for as much as $573,000 apiece in Hong Kong.

Our best wishes for a productive day. Please send any news, comments, crypto parodies, and salt shakers to You can follow us on Twitter for updates throughout the day or download our apps for iPhone and Android. Today’s Daily Brief was written by Steve Mollman and edited by Alice Truong.