The European Union was to finalize membership terms yesterday for Austria, Sweden, Norway, and Finland, clearing the way for the four countries to join the 12-nation union in January. The EU overcame a major obstacle to accepting new members Tuesday when they settled an acrimonious dispute over voting rules. Enlargement of the EU has been delayed a month by opposition from Britain and Spain over changes in the group's voting rules, which they claimed would weaken their veto power over union decisions. Each nation's entry must still be approved by a vote by their citizens and the EU's 518-seat parliament, which votes May 4.

Stock market tumbles

The US stock market fell more than 63 points Tuesday, reaching its lowest point since December, in a sell-off that ignored good news in the economy and raised concerns about whether a prolonged decline could be under way. Investment professionals attributed the decline to worries over higher interest rates, political hot spots abroad, and rising tensions between Japan and the US. Stocks opened much lower yesterday, and trading curbs were enacted.

US-Japan trade

Japan's latest market-opening package lacked the details needed to redress Japan's huge current account surplus and boost its economic growth, US Ambassador Walter Mondale said yesterday. The standoff following a US-Japan summit failure last month rekindled concerns of a possible trade war, although the White House stressed it was open to new offers.

Flash flooding

Flash flooding from two days of heavy downpours threatened the mid-Atlantic and Northeast as rain continued to fall yesterday. Flash flood watches were in effect for parts of Virginia, Delaware, Maryland, West Virginia, New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Rhode Island, and Massachusetts. Showers were expected to diminish by today. (See photo below.)

Film ban lifted

The Malaysian government yesterday lifted a ban on the Holocaust film ``Schindler's List,'' which Malaysian censors had rejected as Zionist propaganda. The Cabinet, however, added that it will be subject to censorship for sex and violence. The film's screening remains uncertain because director Steven Spielberg has insisted it be shown in its entirety.

William Natcher

Rep. William Natcher (D) of Kentucky, a courtly and ever-vigilant lawmaker who earned a place in the Guinness Book of World Records for his unbroken string of 18,401 votes in Congress, died Tuesday. Natcher was chairman of the powerful House Appropriations Committee, which controls most discretionary spending.

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