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Shhh! World's Powerful People Are Meeting In Secret Again

What goes on up the road is only for those in the know to know: Police stood guard Thursday near the Grove Hotel in Watford, England, where "The Bilderberg" group is meeting this year.
Nick Ansell
PA Photos /Landov
What goes on up the road is only for those in the know to know: Police stood guard Thursday near the Grove Hotel in Watford, England, where "The Bilderberg" group is meeting this year.

There's "no detailed agenda, no resolutions are proposed, no votes are taken, and no policy statements are issued."

And as The Associated Press says, "what happens at Bilderberg, stays at Bilderberg."

But each year "The Bilderberg" brings together nearly 150 of the world's most powerful people (Henry Kissinger, David Petraeus, Christine Lagarde and others). So despite the secrecy — or, perhaps because of the secrecy — this weekend's gathering at the luxury Grove Hotel near London is drawing protests.

The demonstrators include, according to the AP, American talk-radio host and Sept. 11 "truther" Alex Jones. He's among those who believe these "masters of the universe," as the International Herald Tribune refers to the Bilderberg invitees, are part of an elite conspiracy that rules the world.

Bilderberg spokesman Xander Heijnen tells the AP there's nothing sinister going on:

"We disclose the date, the location, the participants and the key topics of the conference," Xander Heijnen said. "Many groups of people meet without announcing it publicly at all, without disclosing who is taking part and without giving any key topics."

"The meetings broaden the participants' range of viewpoints, help them to gain insights and exchange views," he said. "It seems illogical to argue that a meeting of individuals designed to give and obtain fresh insights, somehow 'undermines democracy.' "

What is The Bilderberg and who is invited to attend?

On the organization's website (yes, even secret societies have websites), it's described as "an annual conference designed to foster dialogue between Europe and North America. ... Every year, between 120-150 political leaders and experts from industry, finance, academia and the media are invited to take part in the conference. ... The conference is a forum for informal, off-the-record discussions about megatrends and the major issues facing the world."

Bilderberg gets its name "from the hotel in Holland where the first meeting took place in May 1954."

As for the participants, they're a who's who of the powerful from the past and present. Along with former Secretary of State Kissinger, former CIA Director Petraeus and current International Monetary Fund Managing Director Lagarde, this year's attendees include:

-- Jeff Bezos, founder and CEO of

-- Timothy Geithner, former Treasury secretary.

-- Princess Beatrix of The Netherlands.

-- British Prime Minister David Cameron.

-- Eric Schmidt, chairman of Google.

The weekend's topics, Bilderberg says, will include:

-- Can the US and Europe grow faster and create jobs?

-- Jobs, entitlement and debt.

-- How big data is changing almost everything.

-- Nationalism and populism.

-- U.S. foreign policy.

-- Africa's challenges.

-- Cyber warfare and the proliferation of asymmetric threats.

-- Major trends in medical research.

-- Online education: promise and impacts.

-- Politics of the European Union.

-- Developments in the Middle East.

-- Current affairs.

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Mark Memmott is NPR's supervising senior editor for Standards & Practices. In that role, he's a resource for NPR's journalists – helping them raise the right questions as they do their work and uphold the organization's standards.