NASHVILLE, Tenn.

NASA says Beyonce trivializes Challenger disaster in song

NASA officials say the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster “should never be trivialized” in response to a new song from Beyonce that features an audio sample recorded just after the craft exploded on takeoff, killing all seven crewmembers.

The space agency issued the statement late Tuesday after the pop star began to receive criticism from Challenger families and others for using the short sample that includes the words “major malfunction” as an allusion to a failed relationship.

“The Challenger accident is an important part of our history; a tragic reminder that space exploration is risky and should never be trivialized,” said the statement from Lauren B. Worley, NASA’s press secretary. “NASA works every day to honor the legacy of our fallen astronauts as we carry out our mission to reach for new heights and explore the universe.”

NASA’s response came after the pop superstar explained the use of the short snippet in a statement Tuesday to ABC News that stopped short of an apology.

The sample appears at the beginning of her song “XO” from her new self-titled album.

MIAMI

U.S. releases three men from Guantanamo Bay

Three members of a persecuted ethnic minority from China have been released from Guantanamo Bay and sent to the Central European country of Slovakia, officials said Tuesday, resolving a diplomatic dilemma that had kept the men imprisoned long after a judge had ordered their release.

The three men were the last three ethnic Uighurs held at the U.S. base in Cuba and their release after months of intense diplomatic efforts comes amid a renewed effort by President Obama to close down the prison.

Slovakia had accepted three other Guantanamo prisoners in 2009 and allowed the resettlement of the Uighurs after other countries refused because of pressure from the Chinese government, which has sought to take custody of the men.

The Pentagon identified the men as Yusef Abbas, Saidullah Khalik and Hajiakbar Abdul Ghuper.

All three are in their 30s and were captured in late 2001.

CASSELTON, N.D.

After explosive train wreck, mayor calls for changes

A southeastern North Dakota town narrowly escaped tragedy when a train carrying crude oil derailed and exploded nearby, the mayor said Tuesday, calling for changes in how the fuel is transported across the U.S.

No one was hurt in Monday’s derailment of the mile-long train that sent a great fireball and plumes of black smoke skyward about a mile from the small town of Casselton. The fire had been so intense as darkness fell that investigators couldn’t get close enough to count the number of burning cars.

Worries about the smoke plume prompted officials to ask Casselton’s 2,400 residents to voluntarily evacuate Monday.

– From news service reports