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Some of the planet's most powerful people will take part in the infamously secretive Bilderberg meeting that begins Thursday to discuss their most pressing concerns, including Russia, free trade and the "post-truth" world.
Political leaders and experts from industry, finance, academia and the media will take part in the annual conference, taking place this year in Turin from Thursday to Sunday.
So far, 131 participants from 23 countries have confirmed their attendance, Bilderberg's organizers said. Some of the names on this year's guestlist include the president of the World Economic Forum, Borge Brende, the CEOs of Airbus, DeepMind and Total, as well as Mark Carney, governor of the Bank of England and Ryanair's Michael O'Leary. The meeting is chaired by French businessman Henri de Castries and he leads the organization's "steering committee." (http://bilderbergmeetings.org/participants.html)
The key topics for discussion at this year's meeting were published by its organizers Wednesday, giving an insight into what are deemed the most pressing issues in global affairs:
1. Populism in Europe
2. The inequality challenge
3. The future of work
4. Artificial intelligence
5. The U.S. before midterms
6. Free trade
7. U.S. world leadership
9. Quantum computing
10. Saudi Arabia and Iran
11. The "post-truth" world
12. Current events
Some issues like the rise of anti-establishment politics and populism in Europe, persistent inequality, the West's trick relationship with a resurgent Russia and Saudi Arabia and Iran's emnity have been around for a while. Others, like the rise of artificial intelligence and quantum computing, reflect uncertainty over mankind's relationship with technology.
Politics and geopolitics dominate the list, however, with the themes of Russia, the Middle East, U.S. world leadership and the domestic political environment ahead of midterm elections in November. The arrival of President Donald Trump in the White House has thrown out the old way of doing politics and heralded a renegade style of politics.
Meanwhile, scandals involving allegations of the mass use of social media to influence elections also relates to a blurring of objective fact and fiction — hence the "post-truth" world the Bildergroup group will discuss. Post-truth, which was Oxford English Dictionary's word of the year in 2016, is an adjective defined by the dictionary compiler as "relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief."
Founded in 1954, the Bilderberg meeting is an annual event designed "to foster dialogue between Europe and North America," organizers say. The meeting is renowned for its secretive content.
About two thirds of participants come from Europe and the rest from North America; approximately a quarter from politics and government and the rest from other fields, organizers said in a statement Wednesday. Discretion, as always, is de rigeur.
"The conference is a forum for informal discussions about major issues facing the world. The meetings are held under the Chatham House Rule, which states that participants are free to use the information received, but neither the identity nor the affiliation of the speaker(s) nor any other participant may be revealed."
The organizers said that thanks to the private nature of the meeting, "the participants are not bound by the conventions of their office or by pre-agreed positions."
"As such, they can take time to listen, reflect and gather insights. There is no desired outcome, no minutes are taken and no report is written. Furthermore, no resolutions are proposed, no votes are taken, and no policy statements are issued."
With the great and the good attending the meeting, which has become synonymous with the elite, a frequently asked question is how the Bilderberg meeting is financed. Organizers said the financing was a mixed bag:
"Annual contributions by steering committee members cover the annual costs of the secretariat. The budget of the secretariat is limited to the costs of the meeting. The hospitality costs of the annual meeting are the responsibility of the steering committee member(s) of the host country. Participation is by invitation only, and there is no attendance fee. Participants take care of their own travel and accommodation costs."