Continued from page 1

ABOARD THE USS GEORGE WASHINGTON — Less than a week after China launched its first aircraft carrier, the U.S. showed off its own big-boy supercarrier to former enemy Vietnam - one of several smaller Asian nations with jittery nerves amid Beijing’s burgeoning maritime ambitions.

A delegation of Vietnamese military and government officials was treated to a tour aboard the sprawling USS George Washington nuclear carrier this weekend off the country’s southern coast, once home to the U.S.-backed capital of South Vietnam during the brutal Vietnam War.

It’s the second such visit to the U.S. Navy’s hulking carrier in as many years and a symbol of the former foes’ warming military ties.

But Saturday’s visit also came amid heated tensions between China and its Asian neighbors. Hanoi’s relations with Beijing hit a low point this summer after weeks of squabbling over disputed territory in the South China Sea - where the U.S. carrier cruised under blue skies about 140 miles off the coast.

On Wednesday, China launched its first carrier on a test run. The refurbished former Soviet vessel, once named the Varyag, was rebuilt over about a decade from a stripped-down hull. Beijing has said it plans to use the carrier for research and training, which could lead to the buildup of more like it in its own shipyards.


Transgender wedding shows shifting attitudes

HAVANA — A gay man and a woman whose sex-change operation was paid for by the state tied the knot Saturday in a first-of-its-kind wedding for Cuba, a sign of how much the country’s attitude toward sexuality has changed since gays and transsexuals suffered persecution in the early years after the revolution.

Bride Wendy Iriepa, 37, arrived at a Havana wedding hall in the afternoon in a vintage Ford convertible and a full white wedding gown, flowers in her hair and holding a rainbow flag. Neighborhood residents came out of their homes to gawk at the wedding party and the journalists mobbing the car.

“This is the first wedding between a transsexual woman and a gay man,” said the 31-year-old groom, Ignacio Estrada. “We celebrate it at the top of our voices and affirm that this is a step forward for the gay community in Cuba.”

Inside, a public notary joined them in a brief civil ceremony, and the newlyweds kissed to cheers from friends and family.

Gay marriage is not legal in Cuba, and Saturday’s wedding does nothing to change that since Mrs. Iriepa, born Alexis, is a woman in the eyes of the law.

Mrs. Iriepa had sex-change surgery in 2007 as part of a pilot program that began in earnest the following year and made gender-reassignment procedures part of the island’s universal health care system. One other transgender woman married many years ago, but Mrs. Iriepa is the first to do so under the new policy.