Could an Italian Jew Have Created the Book That Baffled Researchers for a Century?

In 1912, the Polish collector Wilfrid Voynich discovered an old, handwritten book, written in a never-before-seen alphabet and accompanied by illustrations. It has since been examined by historians, linguists, cryptologists, and computer scientists, who have generated many theories about its origins—including that it was forged by Voynich himself—without producing anything conclusive. More recently the ink, paint, and vellum have been dated to the 15th century, and their chemical makeup suggests they come from Italy. The scholar Stephen Skinner, by focusing on the drawings rather than the text, now believes the author to have been Jewish, as Danuta Kean writes:

[Skinner] draws evidence for his theory of the author’s identity from a range of illustrations in the manuscript, particularly a section in which naked women are depicted bathing in green pools supplied by intestine-like pipes. [He] believes the illustrations show [ritual] Jewish baths called mikva’ot, which are still used [by Orthodox Jewish women] after childbirth or menstruation.

Pointing to the fact that the pictures show only nude women and no men, Skinner told the Guardian, “The only place you see women like that bathing together in Europe at that time was in the purification baths that have been used by Orthodox Jews for the last 2,000 years.”

He believes the drawings were of an invention designed by the mysterious author that aimed to ensure [by magical means] an efficient supply of clean water to a mikveh. . . . Other evidence Skinner uses to support his theory includes the lack of Christian symbolism in the manuscript—unusual [for the] time. . . . “There are no saints or crosses, not even in the cosmological sections,” he said.

Considered in addition to the absence of religious symbolism, Skinner said, visual clues in the manuscript suggest its author was a Jewish physician and herbalist. Many of the plants depicted, alongside astrological charts, are medicinal herbs such as opium and cannabis.

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Read more at Guardian

More about: History & Ideas, Italian Jewry, Mikveh

The New Iran Deal Will Reward Terrorism, Help Russia, and Get Nothing in Return

After many months of negotiations, Washington and Tehran—thanks to Russian mediation—appear close to renewing the 2015 agreement concerning the Iranian nuclear program. Richard Goldberg comments:

Under a new deal, Iran would receive $275 billion of sanctions relief in the first year and $1 trillion by 2030. [Moreover], Tehran would face no changes in the old deal’s sunset clauses—that is, expiration dates on key restrictions—and would be allowed to keep its newly deployed arsenal of advanced uranium centrifuges in storage, guaranteeing the regime the ability to cross the nuclear threshold at any time of its choosing. . . . And worst of all, Iran would win all these concessions while actively plotting to assassinate former U.S. officials like John Bolton, Mike Pompeo, and [his] adviser Brian Hook, and trying to kidnap and kill the Iranian-American journalist Masih Alinejad on U.S. soil.

Moscow, meanwhile, would receive billions of dollars to construct additional nuclear power plants in Iran, and potentially more for storage of nuclear material. . . . Following a visit by the Russian president Vladimir Putin to Tehran last month, Iran reportedly started transferring armed drones for Russian use against Ukraine. On Tuesday, Putin launched an Iranian satellite into orbit reportedly on the condition that Moscow can task it to support Russian operations in Ukraine.

With American and European sanctions on Russia escalating, particularly with respect to Russian energy sales, Putin may finally see net value in the U.S. lifting of sanctions on Iran’s financial and commercial sectors. While the return of Iranian crude to the global market could lead to a modest reduction in oil prices, thereby reducing Putin’s revenue, Russia may be able to head off U.S. secondary sanctions by routing key transactions through Tehran. After all, what would the Biden administration do if Iran allowed Russia to use its major banks and companies to bypass Western sanctions?

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Read more at Dispatch

More about: Iran nuclear deal, Russia, U.S. Foreign policy