What to Expect From the Real Estate Market In 2014

After many years of challenges, the real estate market came back to life last year. It is expected that the rebound will progress in 2014, but the movement will be very slow. A lot of experts say that 2014 is a year for stabilization and continued growth favoring the housing market with the decreasing number of foreclosures, rising prices or homes and more activity seen in homeowners. But then, real estate still need to deal with headwinds since inventory is tight and the fact that lending standards remain tough.

Real Estate Tax Tips in 2014

In order to purchase a home in the current real estate market, you need excellent credit score or the ability to pay in full cash. According to experts, the average score for applicants who were denied is at 729. With this, it can be inferred that the average score accepted is at 720 or higher. It is not right to expect that the credit standards will ease up soon. This is the year where regulations meant for preventing risky mortgage products and borrowers from coming into the market takes place. These changes necessitate lenders to evaluate several factors such as employment status and debt-income ratio, assets and income very closely.

The Continued Hike in Home Prices

Apart from tight credits, rising home prices and interest rates may put off prospective buyers from buying properties in 2014. Take a look at the computed 30 year mortgage at 3.34% in 2013 that bounces to 4.48% the current year and is expected to increase further this year.

What about the luxury home market? Well, price gains are not that much of a bad news for those who wish to buy. However, first time buyers may lose hope though increasing prices may satisfy current owners whom are waiting for their homes to accumulate more value.

In the past years, first time home buyers serve as the driving force. But this year, the reverse is expected as the prices of houses rises and less mortgages becomes underwater. The degree of bounce the housing market is expected in 2014 also relies on construction. Builders are financially careful and deal with similar tight lending settings as buyers do. So, this year, it is expected that there will be a small increase in new homes out in there in the market. But then, if buyer demand hikes up, building of new homes should also follow.

Tight Inventory
This 2014, the gains in terms of demand as well as inventory will move in a slow pace. It was noted that the entire housing inventory fall during the months of October-November last year. Currently, unsold inventory is at 5% higher compared to last year and with this, it is predicted that the inventory will not speed up until 2015.

It is presumed that 2014 will be the period where the appreciation of home prices will pull back to sustainable levels. However, to be able to get through the current housing trends, ample research is needed. This may take time, but it is always better to be sure than regret later on.

Should You Even Bother With Article Marketing Since Google’s Hummingbird Update?

I’ve been an avid article marketer since I wrote my first ebook back in 2002 and discovered that I could get free coverage by simply writing content and giving it away for others to distribute “all of the web.” Since then, there’ve been so many Google updates you’d think the search giant was running a zoo instead of an online marketing firm, eg, Penguin, Panda, Hummingbird, etc.

But with every update, and with all the SEO experts declaring that article marketing is dead, ineffective and can be downright harmful, I’m still in love with this form of content marketing. And make no mistake, that’s what article marketing is.

3 Reasons I Still Believe in Article Marketing – Even Post-Hummingbird

Following is why I STILL think article marketing is effective – yes, even in spite of Google’s latest most talked about update.

1. It’s Just Content Marketing: What do industry leaders like the Content Marketing Institute (CMI) say you need to do to get more site visitors, traffic, conversion, leads and sales? Produce more content.

In fact, one of the findings of the CMI’s B2B Content Marketing: 2014 Benchmarks, Budgets, and Trends-North America report, the company flat out says, “It seems to be that small businesses need to realise that… producing enough content on a regular basis is crucial for success.”

Article marketing is just content marketing – and if done consistently (this is where many fall down), it’s still effective.

2. It Forces You to Produce Better Content: Piggybacking on this last point, almost all of Google’s algorithm changes work in some way to make what web surfers want to find on the web better. They want to get rid of spammy, keyword-stuffed articles that aren’t helpful to end users and reward content that is the exact opposite.

As well-known social media and content strategist Jay Baer writes in the post, How Google Is Forcing Your Content to Get Better:

Google has stated for many years that their goal is to make search behave more like people… and this [Hummingbird update] is just the next step in that direction. Content that people like, Google will like.

Google wants you to figure out what content to make not by obsessing over keywords and data reports, but to answer the questions that you can genuinely answer well, and be authoritative for the topics about which you truly are a good solution.

3. It Forces Scammers Out: With every Google update, more and more of the spammers, schemers and scammers as I like to call them, give up and go away because they’re after a quick buck. But real business owners who are invested in their sites, blogs, brands and image rejoice. Why?

While we may get frustrated if our sites lose rank for no apparent reason, we know that if we keep producing great content and distributing it, we’re building a community – a community of loyal readers and followers. This makes us less reliant on what Google and other search engines are doing – because it’s never been about “gaming Google,” but meeting our customers’ needs.

And a strange thing happens – Google rewards this because your “community” sends signals their way (via shares on social media, comments on blogs, reviews in forums, etc.) that, “Hey, we like this site!”

Remember the quote above from Jeff Baer’s post, “Content that people like, Google will like?” Well that’s how it works folks.

I’ve been saying this for a while now, if you want to “beat Google,” focus less on the intricacies of what they may or may not be doing with their algorithm updates, and more on what they tell you directly, which is to have original, high-quality content. Proof?

In the Search Engine Land post, FAQ: All About The New Google “Hummingbird” Algorithm, founder, editor and search engine guru Danny Sullivan writes:

Does this mean SEO is dead?

No, SEO is not yet again dead. In fact, Google’s saying there’s nothing new or different SEOs or publishers need to worry about. [Google’s] Guidance remains the same, it says: have original, high-quality content. (emphasis added) Signals that have been important in the past remain important; Hummingbird just allows Google to process them in new and hopefully better ways.

How Effective Has Article Marketing Been for Me

Well, it’s kept me on the first three pages of Google for many keywords relevant to my niches, eg, SEO writing – and quite a few more.

SEO Article Marketing: Well Over 1,000 Articles Written!

Once I learned how to write SEO content in 2007, I increased my article marketing efforts and I haven’t let up since. In my opinion, it’s still some of the cheapest, most effective online marketing you can do – yes, even in spite of Google’s Hummingbird update.

Building a Future – Bachelor of Science in Construction Management

As the single-largest industry in the U.S., there’s no doubt that construction plays a pivotal role in the nation’s economy. After all, without heavy equipment, construction equipment operators, and building inspectors, we wouldn’t have any skyscrapers, freeways, apartment buildings, or bridges. So, when it comes to getting in on some of the hottest careers around, this industry will always provide more than its share of employment opportunities. In fact, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) forecasts that employment opportunities for construction managers will exceed the number of qualified candidates from now through 2014.

That said – a construction management degree may be the best way to break into this lucrative field.

Construction Management Degrees: Paving the Way to Success

Many colleges, universities and technical schools are now offering a Bachelor of Science in Construction Management. This type of construction management degree is designed to provide a foundation in construction management, techniques, and legal issues relating to the field. Areas of study can include building codes, site construction and measurement, project management, construction safety management, and more. Instruction on mechanical systems and materials are also typically included in these programs.

Here is a closer look at some of the jobs you can land with a Bachelor of Science in Construction Management:

Building Inspectors. In this position, your priority will be keeping buildings safe and up to code. You’ll double-check repairs, alterations, and construction of buildings and other structures to make sure they are in compliance with local, state, and federal ordinances and zoning laws.

Construction Manager. If you enjoy planning and coordinating, this is the job for you. From construction superintendent – to project engineer – to general construction manager – you’ll be the glue that holds an entire project together. You may plan and direct a single project, or manage pieces of a larger project. Basically, you’ll oversee construction supervisors and workers.

Heavy Equipment Operators. Construction equipment operators use machinery to move heavy materials such as earth and construction equipment. Typical responsibilities include operating equipment such as bulldozers, as well as using road graders and tamping equipment to build roads and other large structures. With relatively high hourly pay and a good job outlook, this could be a great career option if you’re interested in earning a Bachelor of Science in Construction Management.

Show Me the Money

So you may be wondering, “How much do these jobs actually pay?” Well, that depends on a lot of factors. Pay for these positions will vary based on the size and nature of the construction project, its geographic location, and economic conditions. But according to the BLS, median annual earnings of construction managers as of May 2004 were $69,870. The middle 50 percent earned between $53,430 and $92,350. The lowest-paid 10 percent earned less than $42,120. And according to a July 2005 salary survey by the National Association of Colleges and Employers, candidates with a Bachelor of Science in Construction Management received job offers averaging $42,923 a year – right out of school.

Some of the courses you can expect to take while getting your construction management degree include:

o Project Management

o Statics and Strength of Materials

o Building Codes

o Project Scheduling

o Cost Estimating and Analysis

o Legal Issues in Construction

If this sounds good to you, it’s time to start finding a place to get your degree. If you’d like to get a Bachelor of Science in Construction Management but just don’t have the time or freedom for traditional classes, keep in mind that many schools now let you get your entire construction management degree online. If this is the way you want to go, be sure and check out the programs at each of the colleges you’re interested in.

Property Manager Education About Carbon Monoxide Detectors Is Critical

Carbon monoxide (CO) is an odorless, invisible gas produced when any fuel such as natural gas, kerosene, wood, oil or even common barbecue charcoal is burned. At high levels without proper ventilation carbon monoxide can kill humans in a very short period of time, even after just a few minutes. Moreover, there is credible research that acute exposure or poisoning by CO can cause chronic health effects such as lethargy, severe headaches, amnesia, psychosis, concentration problems, memory impairment, personality alterations, and even Parkinson’s disease. The American Medical Association states that CO is the primary cause of accidental poisoning deaths in the United States year after year. The federal Centers for Disease Control estimates that CO poisoning kills approximately 500 people annually and causes another approximately 20,000 injuries per year. Needless to say CO is a very important topic and issue for property managers to understand and embrace in order to act as professionally as possible and to protect their client’s best interests.

Today there are laws requiring listed and labeled CO detectors within all residences, rental units, investment properties, multi-family residences, and apartment buildings. It is tantamount for property managers and property management companies to be fully educated about CO, CO detectors, CO poisoning, exposure and prevention. There are also some ‘best practices’ guidelines for property managers to be mindful of and incorporate into their property inspection checklists.

Various State Laws Require Carbon Monoxide Detectors in Dwellings

In California as of July 2011 the Carbon Monoxide Poisoning Prevention Act of 2010, (hereinafter “The Act”) requires carbon monoxide detectors to be installed within every dwelling unit intended for human occupancy. The Act also requires CO detectors to be installed in ‘all other existing dwelling units’ on or before January 1, 2013. Thus, as of 2014 “ALL” dwelling units need to be equipped with properly listed and labeled CO detectors.

How are CO Detectors Energized

The standards for manufacture of CO detectors are well documented in state laws. Standard 720 of the National Fire Protection Association is the basis for manufactured detectors. Most home improvement and hardware stores carry several code complying varieties of detectors. CO detectors can be battery powered, can be plug-in (outlet) with battery backup, or can be hardwired with battery backup. CO detectors that are manufactured with a combination smoke detector must emit an alarm or voice warning with each signal different than the other.

Where in a Dwelling Unit are CO Detectors Required?

CO detectors are required to be installed in a manner consistent with building code standards for new construction. For minimum effectiveness and security CO detectors should be located outside of each sleeping room or in the vicinity of bedrooms. CO detectors must also be installed in every level of a dwelling unit including basements within which fuel-burning appliances exist and dwelling units that have attached garages. The CO detectors should be at least six (6″) inches from exterior walls; three (3′) feet from HVAC supply or return ducting vents, and not obstructed by other equipment, furniture, or occupant belongings.

Landlords and Property Managers are required to Supply Carbon Monoxide Detectors in All Dwelling Units

The standards and requirements for CO detectors apply equally to landlords and property managers. After proper notice has been granted to a tenant property managers have the authority to enter dwelling to install, repair, test and maintain CO detectors. CO detectors are required to be operable at the time the tenant takes possession of the unit. Tenants are required to notify the property manager if the CO detector becomes defective or inoperable. A property manager will not be held responsible or in violation of the law if a tenant has failed to notify the property manager of the deficient device.

Common Sources of Carbon Monoxide in Dwelling Units

Any fuel burning appliance located in a residence or dwelling unit is a potential CO producer. Gas burning heating systems, gas burning cooking appliances like cooktops, ovens, griddles, and water heaters are all possible sources of CO. Typically, the gas burning appliance somehow becomes mal-adjusted and begins to burn the fuel incompletely, leaving CO molecule production. This is sometimes caused by the equipment failing, but can also be caused by alterations in the dwelling unit interior atmospheric pressures.

Another common source of CO in a dwelling unit is from attached garages and vehicular exhaust. It is always a best practice to start a vehicle in an attached garage and move it to the driveway exterior while allowing it to warm up. Never allow vehicles to be running within a closed garage as the exhaust will most certainly find its way into the dwelling potentially causing problems.

Property Managers Must Take Carbon Monoxide Education Seriously

Because CO is a silent killer it is imperative that property managers be diligent about CO detector education and maintenance. Carbon monoxide is such an extremely important area of concern for property managers for the reasons stated above. In addition to protecting your client’s best interests diligence in maintaining properly functioning CO detectors can save lives.

Property managers and property management companies must be adequately educated about CO, CO detectors, CO poisoning, exposure and prevention.

Austin Texas Rental Market Will Grow Through 2014!

As the rest of the US and global markets remain uncertain, Austin Texas is looking as bright as ever according to economist Angelos Angelou. “We will have a healthy economy, the envy of many cities around the country, Austin today leads the charts on every measure of economic growth one can think of.”

Angelos is generally very conservative when making employment forecasts. He predicted 19,000 new jobs in 2012 however; we ended 26,000, which is a welcome sight!

The areas already booming population will expand another 7 percent by 2014, Angelou said, coming just shy of 2 million. Meanwhile, Austin employers will add 29,000 jobs next year and another 30,000 in 2014

Unemployment lowered to 5.3%, which is well below the 7.8% national average spurred by a business and tax friendly environment.

The country and large employers are noticing, he stated, pointing to Apple, Facebook, GM, Visa and Samsung, which call Austin home. Furthermore, Apple is on-track to double its workforce in the coming years, which may make it the largest employer in Austin.

Austin hosted its first Formula One race which was a huge hit and brought millions in tax revenue to the city. South by Southwest and ACL also continue to grow. This positive impact has been seen with the low occupancy rate in the hospitality and increasing wages.

Real estate values and rents remain strong. Continued population growth has the potential to create a lasting and severe shortage of residential real estate in the near future, Angelou said.

Savvy investors know that real estate is a great way to build real wealth. With rental property you have multiple income streams that are increasing your wealth:

  • Cash on cash return (ROI from rental income)
  • Property appreciation (wealth increases)
  • Tenants paying mortgage builds equity/wealth for you!
  • Tax benefits (Write-offs, deprecation, etc)
  • Purchase equity

The Austin TX rental property market offers great cash flow whether you are investing in single family homes, multi-units or apartment complexes. Each has its advantage and disadvantage. We personally focus on single family and up to 4plexes as opposed to apartments. This is due to the ease of obtaining traditional financing and the amount of foreclosures on the market. Furthermore we see huge upside on home values as the markets continue to normalize. Apartment complexes do tend to offer better cash on cash returns but the financing is harder to obtain and the value of the property is tied more to rental prices rather than comparables.

China Bolsters Copper Market

The United States is crawling into 2014 with the Federal Reserve Board doing everything it can to stave off deflation. Years of zero percent interest rate policies along with the current $85 billion per month in stimulus have failed to generate inflation in anything but the stock market. This leaves GDP well below 2% and unemployment remains stubbornly high. Meanwhile, the European Central Bank just cut their rates in half, now at a.25%, to spur any kind of economic growth of their own. Typically, two thirds of the world, North America and Europe mired in economic doldrums would lead to a generally soft commodity outlook. However, China’s growth continues to be the real story and this is best explained by the inner workings of the copper market.

China’s growth rate continues to exceed 7.5% and is expected to register a third consecutive quarter of growth, which may top 8% for Q4. The vast majority of this growth is in building. Industrial infrastructure and residential construction continue to boom. China’s arcane domestic investment laws are partly to blame for this as their residents have very few open channels of investment other than real estate. Further muddying the waters is their version of the loan qualification process, which now accepts hard assets, like copper as collateral. This has put China in the top spot in global copper consumption. In fact, they consume approximately 40% of the world’s copper shipments.

We often refer to copper as, “the economist of the metals market.” The logic follows the line of copper as a base need for economic expansion, which we view as building stuff – houses, electronics, buildings, cars, etc. It appears that the Chinese growth story is bigger than old world economic malaise. The copper market has seen renewed interest in commercial buying since Bernanke’s tapering talk in August signaled an, “everybody out of the pool,” moment. In fact, cash copper prices are trading above the copper future’s price and copper miners are negotiating just how high they’re going to set their premiums for 2014.

The current spot premium is around $.05 – $.07 per pound which reflects the highest premium since the collapse of ’08. The surge in demand is prompting premium increases of 50% and higher as producers negotiate with Europe, Asia and America. Codelco, the world’s largest copper producer has announced plans to raise Chinese premiums by 41%. There are similar increases of 50% for the U.S. and up to 75% for the European Union. These price rises come in the face of an expected surplus of 200, 000 tons (less than 2% of total market) after experiencing a three-year supply deficit. In spite of the projected surplus, Codelco has openly admitted that they’ve hedged none of their forward production.

Commercial traders in the copper market were what tipped me off to the market’s increasingly bullish outlook. I was so busy looking at our domestic economy that I didn’t see the rebound in their buying after initial talk of tapering, which pointed to slowing growth and declining demand created the bearish scenario I outlined in Augusts’, “Copper Points to Slowing Economy.” Clearly, the cash market premiums are leading end line users to hedge their future needs through the purchase of forward copper futures contracts.

The largest net long position I can find for commercial traders in the copper market is near 40,000 contracts. This was made during the July sell-off. Previously, the largest net long commercial position I could find was in February of 2009 when copper was trading at $1.75 per pound and we were coming out of the major market crash. What the market is seeing now is a greater willingness to own copper at much higher prices. This buying support is putting a floor in the market around the $3 per pound level and is prolonging the sideways market direction that has persisted throughout the year. The longer this occurs, the closer we are to breaching the downward sloping trend line that originated at the 2011 highs around $4.80 and now comes into play around $3.36 per pound. Obviously, a move above this would confirm the move for 2014.

We see two potential concerns in this 2014 scenario. First of all, China has always been an opaque marketplace where the economic statistics produced by the government must always be taken with a grain of salt. There is talk that end line demand is nowhere near as strong as Chinese imports suggest. However, for our purposes, it is pretty irrelevant if China is using their copper imports or, storing them. Either way, supplies are being taken off the market. Secondly, much of the mining that’s counted in moving us to surplus is in new mines whose production is only estimated. Therefore, their production numbers aren’t yet solidified. Finally, all things considered, copper may be one of the best physical assets to own as we approach 2014.

Online Bachelor Degree in Business Management and Online Universities

As market complexity increases, many developed as well as developing countries have come under pressure to keep up with the developments in the field. Hence, more and more companies are looking for the aid of experienced business consultants and business managers to keep up with the changing market. The graduates who have completed their online bachelor’s degree in business management(BM) is able to provide analysis of and suggest about how to improve the profits, productivity and the organizational structure of the company. As the technology is becoming advanced day by day, the companies are not leaving any leaf unturned as they are recruiting many business professionals and business analysts.

Online degree programs in BM include:

  • Accounting degree
  • Advertising and marketing
  • Business administration
  • Business management
  • Communications degree
  • E – Commerce and E – business
  • Entrepreneurship degree
  • Finance degree
  • Human resource
  • Leadership degree
  • Management degree
  • Operations degree
  • Organizational management
  • Project management degree
  • Public administration
  • Travel and tourism

Online bachelor’s degree program in business management is designed in such a way to help students in planning and executing effective strategies of business management. Students are taught about problem solving and other market strategies. The eligibility criteria for getting admission to this course are high school diploma or any such similar GED certificate from any accredited school. Students can understand the subject better if they have an interest for latest market trends and business. Also some institutions offer the course to those who are working and experienced and have completed the age of 25 years.

The different aspects of BM such as:

  • Business ethics
  • Marketing laws
  • Economy
  • Organizational behavior
  • Productivity management
  • Financial management
  • Real world management
  • Marketing concepts
  • Art of managing employees
  • Investments
  • Risk assessments etc. are covered in the course.

Recent research statistics have shown that there will be a huge rise in the job opportunities in the business management field by 2014. Students who pass out from online degree course are grabbed by several multinational reputed companies and other global firms. Some of the industries that offer job opportunities for graduates are automobile, aviation, information technology, finance, banking, tourism etc.

List of Colleges and Universities Offering Online Bachelor’s Degree in Business Management

  • University of Phoenix Online
  • Walden University Online
  • Online Kaplan University
  • Grand Canyon University
  • Ashford University
  • Westwood College Online
  • Capella University
  • Liberty University Online
  • Everest University Online

Six Ways to Showcase Your Curriculum to LCME Using Intelligent Curriculum Management Software

When it comes to curriculum, preparing for your accreditation review can be a complicated process. The Liaison Council on Medical Education (LCME) in conjunction with the American Association of Medical Colleges (AAMC) is more intensely focused on maintaining the standards around curriculum than ever before. What does this mean for your school?

  • Accreditors are asking for more proof and more rigor around standards, which means you have to track and report on more information in more detail and at more frequent intervals.
  • Your curriculum committee is held to a higher standard than ever before, which means you need the right tools to adjust your curriculum on a more frequent and planned basis as the needs of society change.
  • Instead of making changes once every four or so years, you need to demonstrate a process of continuous improvement.
  • The LCME is phasing out CurrMIT and putting a new Curriculum Inventory Portal in place to facilitate a more frequent transfer of more detailed information. Your school will be required to have tools in place to enable this data transfer by 2014.

This trend toward a more rigorous focus on curriculum standards is expected to continue and will likely increase. The implications? Waiting for years between accreditation reviews and then conducting a major overhaul just months before an accreditation review will likely no longer be an acceptable practice.

Do you have the resources and tools to manage these changes?

Traditionally, accessing, tracking and presenting curriculum information has been an onerous task, requiring many hours of research, analysis and tedious report writing on behalf of administrators. In many cases, significant duplication of effort is spent exporting data from one system and uploading it to another, and hours are spent formatting the data in Word or Excel. As accreditation and reporting requirements become more rigorous, and the amount and frequency of information and detail required increases, many traditional methods of reporting will simply require too much overhead and become unsustainable.

So what is the answer?

Intelligent curriculum management software. With recent software innovations, you can virtually eliminate the duplication of tasks and save vast amounts of time spent unnecessarily accessing and re-entering data. With all data centralized, you can easily track, aggregate, sort and analyze information, and then directly link it to national reporting databases, such as the LCME’s CurrMIT.

Currently, many schools do not upload their curriculum information to CurrMIT because they don’t have an efficient process in place to do so. However, by 2014 all medical schools in North America will be required to systematically report their data against national standards through the LCME’s new Curriculum Inventory Portal (CIP), which will replace CurrMIT. To do this, every school will need to have some sort of tool in place to facilitate the data transfer. One of those tools is intelligent curriculum management software.

Here are the top six ways you can use curriculum management software at your school:

1. Give All Stakeholders a View

Your school needs to enable students, residents, faculty, and administrative staff to access their learning objectives, course schedules, assessments and learning materials – often across multiple geographic locations. To further complicate matters, each stakeholder group requires access to different types of information, and at different access levels. This is a daunting challenge, especially when you consider the number of faculty, students and courses at your school. Nevertheless, access to much of this information is actually required under LCME accreditation standards. For example:

  • The ED-3 standard requires that all medical students, faculty, residents and others know the objectives of your medical program.
  • The ED-24 standard requires that residents who teach must “receive a copy of the course or clerkship/clerkship rotation objectives”.

Using intelligent curriculum management software, all of your information is entered and stored in a central system. You are able to set up different access levels and customize software views for unique audiences – which can be accessed through any computer or mobile device that is connected to the Internet. The result? All of your stakeholders will be able to access the information they need, when they need it. And you will be able to export and report on this data at any time.

2. Identify Gaps and Redundancies

The LCME’s ED-37 standard mandates that all medical schools must monitor their curriculum, including the content that is taught in each discipline, in order to ensure that educational objectives are achieved. With new software technology, you are able to track objectives, content and learning activities for every course, and easily identify redundancies and gaps. Better yet, you can say goodbye to accreditation issues as you will be able to easily demonstrate the comprehensive nature of your system and access specific course and learning details.

3. Track and Report on your Different Teaching Types

The LCME’s ED-5-A standard requires that “the methods of instruction and assessment used in courses and clerkships will provide medical students with opportunities to develop lifelong learning skills.” This means you need to link educational and assessment methods back to individual learning experiences, and then report on this data in a way that showcases the types of teaching that make your school unique. With intelligent software, all data school-wide is tracked centrally, enabling you to more easily create reports for accreditation purposes.

4. Demonstrate “Hot Topics”

The LCME’s ED-10 regulation requires that in addition to basic science and clinical subjects, your curriculum must include “behavioral and socioeconomic subjects”. These subjects fall into the category of Hot Topics or issues of the day that many government agencies, including the federal government, would likely be interested in. Using intelligent software, you will be able to track and report on where and when these hot topics are taught in your curriculum, and satisfy educational requirements.

5. Reduce Time Spent Entering Data for LCME

It can take up to eight to 10 hours for administrative staff to enter data for just one course into the CurrMIT system, and this doesn’t factor in maintenance time. Imagine how much time you’re wasting by manually entering in the data for every course in your curriculum? With intelligent software, you can link directly to the CurrMIT system and simply transfer the existing data that was originally entered by your faculty. With the LCME transitioning to a new CIP in 2014, it’s important to make sure you select a curriculum software tool that will be able to transition with you.

6. Get More Done Than Just Mapping

With traditional curriculum mapping software, you only access your software sporadically to map or make adjustments, and the rest of the time it falls out of use. With the new comprehensive and intelligent software available today, mapping is completely integrated with other functionality that is used by staff and students daily, including scheduling. Because you’re using the system as a part of your day-to-day operations, you will be much more likely to keep your mappings up to date and avoid costly efforts to quickly produce mappings for accreditation.

As accreditation standards around curriculum continue to tighten, how prepared is your medical school to track and report on more and more data related to learning – and keep up with the increasing demands of learners and competency-based education trends? Do you have the right tool in place to meet the new LCME data transfer requirements for their new CIP that will be in place for 2014?

By implementing the right curriculum management software system, you can better manage vast amounts of data, meet important accreditation requirements and demonstrate a process of continuous improvement. You will eliminate task duplication and drastically reduce the amount of time spent entering and re-entering data. Best of all, you will gain a comprehensive system to map, manage, schedule and assess your curriculum.

Panzer 88 – Gary Kurtz Develops WW2 Sci-Fi Fantasy Film

At American Film Market, I was invited to a special presentation of “Panzer 88″ a film in development. It was most enlightening seeing how a film of this magnitude is promoted. The sizzle video, the elaborate picture brochure, and the talk by producer Gary Kurtz gave an intriguing picture of how the film will look and the many aspects of developing and producing it. I had an opportunity to talk with him and from he and other participants gather details about this upcoming production.

Additional details were gleaned from the promotional brochure, trade stories, industry websites, and online interviews. This article provides an overview of this fascinating film being ready for production. Of course, changes will likely be made so information presented here is based on available information.

Entitled “Panzer 88″ this WW2 film takes place in October 1944 as a five-man German tank crew motors across Russia in retreat. To develop this WW2 film project they have assembled a notable creative team. They include Gary Kurtz, the Oscar award-winning producer of Star Wars, American Graffiti and Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back, director/writer Peter Briggs (best known for co-writing Hellboy), and Richard Taylor and Peter Jackson’s Weta Workshop (The Hobbit, District 9, and King Kong), who have signed on to handle the film’s physical productions.

Producer Kurtz said that the film is a “visceral, reality-based story with horror overtones.” It’s a combination of the monster genre and a period piece war movie. The film thus caters to the WW2 armor fanatics with adrenalin-fuelled tank-to-tank battle scenes. It also caters to the audience in love with the suspense of a supernatural world, as a vengeful Creature will stop at nothing to see this tank crew die. Another target for this film is video game players who are into sensory cinema, an audience with an incredible visual literacy.

The Story

The movie opens 100 years previously with a flashback. A child is being told a bedtime story about the history of Krytepka, her Russian town. In the story, Marauding Cossacks invade the town and kill Irina, Rabbi Loew’s daughter. Bereft, the Rabbi forges supernatural pact to save the town and a monster-like Creature emerges, driving horseback attackers away.

Several miles away from this ill-fated village, the story segues to “Present Day” late 1944. In as swift, frantic tank-battle scene we are introduced to the heroes of the story. Exploding from the edge of the forest, the King Tiger, nicknamed “Isla” inadvertently stumbles upon three Russian T-34 tanks. A tense tank battle scene ensues and we see “Isla’s” men in full action. They are seasoned professionals. We also see how tough the King Tiger’s is as it takes on hits and returns fire. With its reinforced armor and 88mm cannon, it is no match for the Russian T-34s.

The crew is a microcosm of Germany at the time. Kessler, the commander, is a member of the Nazi party because his rank requires it, not because he wants to be. Heinz, the loader, is sort of an Aryan poster boy, blond and pretty, with no real notion of what Aryan means. He’s an innocent participant.

The gunner, Wolfy, represents the average person, the one who is manipulated to do wrong. Director Peter Briggs says, “For me, he is the most interesting.” Another crewmember is the grizzly old driver, Max; one who would rather not be involved. Kurt, the radio operator, is the new kid and it’s through him we see the story unfold.

The crew of “Isla,” needing to restock supplies and refuel, passes through the current-day town of Krytepka. To their disgust, they find that SS Troopers have gotten there first and massacred everyone. Strange supernatural occurrences affect them: a forewarning of things to come. Leaving the town, they pass the walking wounded, and remnants of abandoned German vehicles. These visuals elevate the theme of the movie. While this is a retreat of men and machines, it is also a retreat of ideologies, a questioning of the war, ones country, ones duty, and ones accountability to human values.

At the depot, the crew picks up their mail and stocks up on supplies. An altercation occurs with a rival Tiger 1 Panzer crew over fuel allocations. However, Colonel Bauer steps in halting the standoff, and then gives Kessler fresh orders to meet up with a King Tiger Battalion assembling across the ice plain. While adding fresh armor to the tank’s hull, a raid by allied fighter-bombers forces sends Kessler’s crew scurrying for cover, unaware they are being followed by a group of vengeful Russian partisans. To make matters worse, the Russian Partisans have radioed Kessler’s position to their command center.

Unable to secure the needed supplies at the Depot, the crew stops to hunt a deer for food. They find more than they bargained for–the lone and lost SS Officer Huber Gottfried. Gottfried, a junior SS officer, is partially responsible for the extermination of a small Russian village. He creates division among the crew driving a wedge between their camaraderie and teamwork. He’s a charming sociopath with a sadistic bent, an immoral compass, and the one actual dedicated Nazi in the story.

With the SS man onboard, the crew of “Ilsa” sees a huge hulk looming out of the Russian mists. It’s “Gustav” the giant siege gun built by the Krupp Munitions company in Germany. Its destruction later in this fictional version suggests what might have happened to this giant siege gun in its finals days.

“Ilsa” heads out across the ice lake where every creaking sound puts the crew’s nerves on edge. Along the way, they pass an eerie column of frozen and abandoned tanks, many sinking into the ice and jutting up at odd angles. Eventually, they come to rest for the night at an abandoned and half-destroyed church, where another disturbing night awaits them. While the crew beds down for the night, Kurt, the radio operator, has a jarring supernatural experience.

They are not alone. Out across the ice plain, the crew of the Tiger 1 tank, the one Kessler’s men encountered back at the Depot, is about to experience a more violent otherworldly event.

The next morning the crew wakens in a morning fog. Heinz, the loader, investigates a sound, and unearths an old Russian truck buried in the snow. However, off to the side in the fog, something else draws his attention. He calls out to the others, and they advance on a grisly sight, the crew of Tiger 1, the one they encountered back at the depot, all five are impaled on high spikes.

Before they can process this mayhem the sound of a Russian SU-100 killer tank seeps through the morning mist. It is accompanied by a white command tank, one from the previous encounters. In addition, Russian Partisans with rocket launchers emerge and a ferocious tank battle ensures.

After eluding the SU-100, “Ilsa” hurries into the woods, switches off her engines, and hides. There they discover the Russian Partisan they took inside during the battle is a woman, Nadia. The chain of command unravels with Kessler injured and unconscious. Then when Gottfried’s questioning of Nadia goes array things take a surprising twist when she unveils a grenade that she’s smuggled onboard.

Things become more desperate when out there somewhere, the arrival of the Creature takes the action to yet another level.

While Max and Heinz undertake repairs on “Ilsa,” Kurt and Wolfy venture on motorbike to the tank graveyard they passed earlier. There they find a replacement firing pin for their broken cannon. Barely escaping a frozen drowning from a sinking tank and roaming pack of wolves, Kurt plays a deadly game of cat and mouse with the Creature around of icy metal hulks.

Just in time, Wolfy rescues Kurt, but they loose the firing pin in the process. The two escape on the motorcycle and head back across the ice-plain to the tank, the Creature in hot pursuit.

Frantically racing to join up with Max, Heinz, and Gottfried at a repaired “Ilsa,” a perilous mid-ride transfer to the tank proves challenging with the vengeful Creature on their tail. When bullets, grenades, and rocket-launchers are thrown into the mix, Heinz and Wolfy are rapidly lost to the Creature.

The final showdown takes place at the giant siege cannon where demoralized remnants of the crew await rescue. Having discovered Kurt’s secret, Gottfried chooses to make his move atop the giant cannon. Unfortunately for Max, the Creature also makes its appearance and “Ilsa” is no more.

Kurt and Gottfried’s tense standoff is interrupted by the tortured whistling of the torn-apart King Tiger tracks and the final battle for survival is on. So ends the published synopsis. However, there has to be more and that’s why you’ll want to see this movie.

Pre-production

Putting this story into cinematic terms will be a challenging job. First off, the military hardware is a logistic nightmare. Accumulating the number of working tanks that are required for the battle scenes would be budget prohibited. Gary Kurtz told me there is only one working King Tiger tank and that is in War Museum, thus unavailable. He went on to say that Peter Jackson/ Richard Taylor’s Weta Workshop would be building one. A Panzer 88 King Tiger weighs about 60 tons and the replica would weigh in at about 15 ton. By using lighter materials such as aluminum, plastics and fiber composites, the weight can be kept down, yet make it appear authentic. For cinematic purposes, this tank would appear fully operational.

Weta will also build the interior sets of the tank. Director Peter Briggs states that these interior sets would be placed on hydraulic ball joints to duplicate affect of movement across rough terrain. Currently, they are planing on building three interiors for the three models of tank they will be using. For “Ilsa” the set will have removable sections, which will allow camera access for full coverage of the tank’s interior. He also plans to use hand-held camera when in the mists of tank battles. There will also be some combination of jiggle/rack focus/45 degree shutter, possibly in conjunction with a C-G “shimmer” concussion blast. This, in combination with visual and sound effects will replicate much of the tank’s battle action.

A combination of C-G, miniatures, and green screen against realistic backgrounds will be used for much of the exterior scenes. For instance, the pursuit of “Ilsa” across the ice plain could be shot in Sweden using 1/4 scale tank in a live setting or in New Zealand with a cyclorama using the same miniatures. Moving plates would be C-G’d in for the background.

In such close-quarters, claustrophobia adds pressure to the crew. It becomes a story of five guys in a tin can who keep getting hit by the unforeseen. The director likens it the Das Boot where to survive; they must work as a team and not give in to their fears. However, in Panzer 88, the arrival of the SS officer creates disharmony and opens up those fears.

To mark the passage of time and distance, beauty shots of the terrain such as frozen waterfall, the abandoned hull of a capsized ship or the marvel of the Milky Way above them will be used. Another beauty shot considered is the Aurora Borealis (Northern Lights) in the background as the tiny speck of the King Tiger tank moves across the Russian arctic landscape.

The Creature will be a hulked-up entity twice the size of a human being and will be a green screen digital composition to gain the right perspective with the other characters and military machinery. He might be creature in a suit, with facial and other CG replacement and sometimes 100% CG. Director says, “He’s a fairly fiery bad ass: he’s most definitely not indestructible, but you need to pour an awful lot at him to make a dent.”

Smoke, fog and snow will play a major part in the atmosphere of the film. They will play into the horror aspects of the film as they hold up a curtain of intrigue as to what’s waiting out there. Fake snow, green screen plates, and a healthy dose of manufactured sounds will round out the production filming. In addition, authentic looking costumes, uniforms, armor & weapons will likewise give the story that authentic lived-in look.

The budget for the film is reported to be around 40 million, which is a moderate amount for an independent film. Talks with stars such as Gary Oldman, Jay Barucchel along with Thomas Kretchman have been reported as casting possibilities. Liev Schreiber has all been mentioned.

I suspect that the film will be action driven with limited dialogue. Much of the drama plays out with maneuvers of the tanks, soldiers, and Russian partisans. However, the major force will be on the expressions of the crewmembers as they face one dilemma after another. Such coverage makes the film more action oriented and thus easily marketable to foreign territories.

While the crew is the protagonist of the film, the director does not see them as being sympathetic. It is more likely we will admire them for their professionalism and the dangers they overcome. They are innocent pawns who stumble across a chain of events that turns them from being warriors into becoming victims. They don’t understand why the Creature is obsessing on them. Yet, we understand the aims of the Creature and sympathize with it. This is the moral dilemma the audience will have to play with and will undoubtedly create considerable commentary among audiences as well as reviewers.

Marketing “Panzer 88″

Carnaby International, based out of London, will be the marketing/sales force behind the project and will shepherd its placement in domestic and international markets. Carnaby is an integrated independent production and sales company with the specific purpose of financing and producing British feature films. To date, Carnaby has produced and co-produced ten feature films. Panzer 88 will be a truly international film with cast, crew, locations, and facilities crossing many borders. The project is being presented at the Berlin Film Festival for additional pre-sale commitments.

Financing and marketing “Panzer 88″ embarks on new territories in filmmaking. Few films have ventured into telling a story from the loser’s point of view, much less between Germany and Russia. Therefore, this film should attract an eager audience wanting to explore this slice of history.

In this story, no one wins. There are no heroes. Only victims of devouring ideologies. In a way, it might be considered a tragedy where we care, feel and identify with the tragic struggles of admirable characters. Thus, there is a high emotional connection between the story and the audience.

The 1981 movie Das Boot is a comparable film with a budget of 14 million and a worldwide box office of 85 million. Adjusted for inflation the budget would now be around 37.8 million and box office of 229.5 million. Das Boot is about a WWII German U-Boat crew facing the boredom, filth, and the sheer terror of a precarious mission. The similarity is uncanny and while the film did okay in the U.S., 11.4 million (30.8 adjusted), it did exceptionally well internationally.

In Das Boot, what I found appealing is the diversity of characters, their wants and emotions. It wasn’t just about the mission; it was about compelling characters dealing with one crisis after another, each in their own way. They dealt with moral issues, family issues, mechanical problems, and their internal fears. With such characters, we strongly identify.

Similar characters are found in “Panzer 88,” as they too must deal with the same issues. While many WW2 films glamorize war measuring success by territory gained or the number of casualties inflicted, we rarely see the brutal carnage inflicted or the horrors experienced by the participants. Panzer 88 has an opportunity to show the realistic side of military action and bring a new dimension to such films. The mission is secondary; survival of the team becomes paramount in Panzer 88.

All these elements will draw audiences to this film, its story, its characters, and its dimension of horror. Another element is the realization of this story, the photography, the military hardware, locations, and the computer graphics. The way these are incorporated into a seamless story line that informs, entertains, scares us, and most of all, tugs at our heartstrings. These are my expectations for “Panzer 88.”

Extras

One thing viewers will look forward to is the behind the scenes video. This is a complicated and imaginative production and how it came together will be of emense interest to its audience. Interviews with the stars and the production team will display the many aspects of producing a film of this magnitude and the tremendous efforts behind it.

Links to online photos and sketches can be found at Panzer 88 Movie – Google Search and Facebook.com/Panzer88Movie.

This is a movie, whose concept is grounded in imaginative databases. It has a creative team that is highly capable of using these innovative tools to create a masterpiece. Panzer 88″ will be a monster hit the world over because it has a universal story, compelling characters, intense action, unique concept and a highly professional team behind it.

CREDITS: Proposed cast includes Gary Oldman, Jay Barucchel, Liev Schreiber, and Thomas Kretchman. Director-Peter Briggs; Writers-Peter Briggs, James Cowen and Aaron Mason; Producers-Gary Kurtz, Andrew Loveday, and Priscilla Ross,; Art Director- Kim Sinclair; Production Manager-Philip Sharpe; First Assistant Director-Richard Matthews. Casting Director-Steve Daly; Art Department: Armor & Weapons-Matt Appleton; Supervisor: Weta Workshop-Robert Gillies; Concept Artist-Stuart Jennett; Head Creature Designer-Paul J. Mendoza; Design & Effects Supervisor-Richard Taylor; Concept Artist-A. J. Trahan; Sound Department: Supervising Sound Editor-Mike Hopkins; Sound Designer-Dave Whitehead. Special Effects Department: Special Effects Supervisor-Steve Ingram; Visual Effects Director of Photography-Alex Funke; Special Effects-Weta Workshop. Studio Facilities-Stone Street Studios. Panzer 88 was slated to go into production March 2014. No revised date has been published.

Your 401-K: How to Make Money Investing in 2014, 2015 and Beyond

Some people make money investing in 401-k plans consistently, while most make money and then give most of their profits back in a bad market. In 2014, 2015 and beyond, good money management and asset allocation are the keys to investing money in 401-k plans if you want to KEEP the money you’ve already accumulated in your plan. Here’s how to do it.

Investing money in 401-k plans is the key to a successful retirement, but for over a dozen years it’s been difficult to make money and KEEP IT. Twice investors have been clipped for 50% or more investing money in 401-k funds. Good money management in 2014, 2015 and beyond and a change in your 401-k asset allocation could help you protect your assets. After all, if you take a 50% loss, you’ve got to then double your money just to get even.

If your plan is typical you could have a dozen or more options for investing money in your 401-k plan, and all but one or two of these are mutual funds: mostly stock funds and bond funds. Do you know where your money is? Money management is your job if you want to make money over the long term, and step one is to review your 401-k asset allocation (your portfolio) from time to time, at least once a year. If you haven’t reviewed your portfolio lately do it now. You might be taking more risk than you think.

Stock funds have outperformed all other options for over 5 years running. This means that if you had about half of your assets in stocks 5 years ago, you’ve likely got the vast majority of your money there now. And this means that a big decline in the stock market in 2014, 2015 and beyond could severely hurt your plans for retirement. Sometimes it pays to be heavily into stock funds. Other times it’s best to be more conservative when investing money in 401-k plans.

If your 401-k asset allocation shows that you are more than 50% invested in stock funds consider cutting back. After 5 very good years, the stock market could be running out of steam. If your plan offers a safe STABLE ACCOUNT that pays interest, take advantage of it. It could pay 3%, 4% or more, and you won’t find interest rates like that anywhere else. Remember, investing money in 401-k plans is a long-term proposition and your future retirement income will depend on whether or not you make money investing consistently.

Bond funds need your attention as well. These have been good options for over 30 years because they perform well when interest rates are falling. When rates go up they LOSE money; and in 2014, 2015 and beyond rates are expected to go up after falling for more than 30 years. In other words, bond funds are NOT safe options. If you want to lighten up on risk, your plan likely offers one or two safe options: a stable account and a money market fund.

Consider the stable account first because it will pay a higher interest rate. As for your 401-k asset allocation: equal allocation to a safe option, stock funds and bond funds makes good sense, both for the assets you hold and for new contributions going in from your paycheck. With this asset allocation average investors you can still make money investing in 401-k plans if present trends continue. If the stock market tanks or interest rates rise, money in the safe options will soften the blow.

Investors need to understand that both the economy and market trends change. You can make money investing in 401-k plans over the long term without taking undo risk. The key to success for 2014, 2015 and beyond is good money management and more safety in your 401-k asset allocation. Sometimes it’s better to be safe than sorry, and to keep some powder dry in safe options, awaiting future opportunity.

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