When it comes to exclusive gatherings of the most influential and powerful people in the world, it doesn't get much better than scoring an invite to the annual Bilderberg conference.
The event, slated to take place this year from June 9-12 at a luxury hotel in Switzerland, includes 140 of the top movers and shakers in politics, banking, business, the military and news media. Everything is kept "hush-hush" — from the guest list to the discussions — which organizers say allows a greater degree of expression and openness than usual.
"We spend three days trying to better understand the world thanks to meetings that I would describe more as intellectual than political. We are away from any pressure," Pascal Couchepin, a former Swiss federal counselor and Bilderberg attendee told Worldcrunch
Indeed, the original purpose behind the conference — first held at the Hotel de Bilderberg in 1954 — was to foster better understanding of American and European cultures under the banners of politics, economics and defense.
This year's agenda, posted on the group's official website
, will cover such topics as Challenges for Growth: Innovation and Budgetary Discipline, the Euro and Challenges for the European Union, the role of Emerging Economies, Social Networks: Connectivity and Security Issues, New Challenges in the Middle East, Conflict Areas, Demographic Challenges, China, and Switzerland: Can it remain successful in the future?
Put enough elites in one room, wrap the whole thing in a blanket of secrecy, and conspiracy theories will grow like weeds. The Bilderberg Group in particular is the subject of several theories — with the most alarming stating that the club wishes to reduce global population by 80 percent. Another says they're moving the planet towards a "new world order," something Chairman Étienne Davignon easily dismissed in a 2005 interview.
"It is unavoidable and it doesn't matter," he said. "There will always be people who believe in conspiracies but things happen in a much more incoherent fashion ... When people say this is a secret government of the world, I say that if we were a secret government of the world, we should be bloody ashamed of ourselves."
U.S. participants reportedly include Keith Alexander, commander of USCYBERCOM and director of the National Security Agency; Jeff Bezos, founder and CEO of Amazon; Chris Hughes, co-founder of Facebook; Eric Schmidt, executive chairman of Google; and James Steinberg, deputy Secretary of State.