World and Nation

Shorts (left)

Harvard endowment reports 11 percent return for fiscal year

A year after a disastrous 27 percent decline that prompted layoffs, salary freezes and a halt to some campus expansion, the Harvard endowment on Thursday reported an 11 percent increase in its $27.4 billion portfolio for the fiscal year that ended June 30.

In her first year as president and chief executive of the Harvard Management Co., which oversees the endowment, Jane Mendillo struggled as the portfolio she had inherited faced heavy cash demands in the area of alternative investments when the stock and commodities markets fell.

Since then, Mendillo has put her stamp on the endowment, increasing its readily available cash and generating a respectable if not spectacular return, several endowment specialists said of the latest performance. The return does lag that of stock market averages for the period by a few percentage points, though it is better than the internal benchmark the endowment uses.

Mendillo said the endowment was more liquid and “well aligned with the long-term need of the university and with regard to the world more broadly.” She said she was happy with how the portfolio did last year, but struck a note of restraint, adding “there are areas where we need to be more muted in our expectations.”

U.S. Marines free ship from Somali pirates

NAIROBI, KENYA — In a predawn raid with helicopters hovering nearby, 24 U.S. Marines scaled aboard a hijacked ship in the Gulf of Aden on Thursday, arrested the nine pirates on board and freed the ship — all without firing a shot, the American military said.

American officials said the rescue appeared to be the first time the American military had boarded a ship commandeered by Somali pirates, who have been hijacking vessel after vessel off Somalia’s coast and wreaking havoc on some of the busiest shipping lanes in the world. According to American officials, around 5 a.m. Thursday, two teams of 12 Marines each motored up in inflatable boats to the hijacked ship, a 436-foot-long German-owned cargo vessel called the Magellan Star. A band of Somali pirates had seized the ship and its crew of 11 in the Gulf of Aden, between Yemen and Somalia, on Wednesday morning. It was carrying steel chains.

The Marines clambered up portable ladders — much as pirates have been doing — and swiftly took over the ship, American officials said. Two helicopters hovered overhead, throwing down cones of light. A Turkish frigate, part of an American-led anti-piracy task force, was nearby. All nine pirates surrendered without a shot, American officials said. The Magellan Star’s crew was safe, too.

Pentagon tries to corner book to keep secrets

WASHINGTON — Defense Department officials are negotiating to buy and destroy all 10,000 copies of the first printing of an Afghan war memoir they say contains intelligence secrets, according to two people familiar wit the dispute.

The publication of “Operation Dark Heart,” by Anthony A. Shaffer, a former Defense Intelligence Agency officer and a lieutenant colonel in the Army Reserve, has divided military security reviewers and highlighted the uncertainty about what information poses a genuine threat to security.

Disputes between the government and former intelligence officials over whether their books reveal too much have become commonplace. But veterans of the publishing industry and intelligence agencies could not recall another case in which an agency sought to dispose of a book that had already been printed.