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Human Rites

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THINK OF IT AS CANDID CAMERA WITH AN AGENDA: THIS YEAR’S VH1 Honors, which toasts celebrities for their charity work, turned itself into a fund-raiser for Witness, a program that provides video cameras, fax machines and training to help volunteers document human-rights violations around the world. Most of the singers and actors present saw that as a good thing, even if they professed to be amazed by the attention they could draw. “I think we have a lot of power, more than politicians sometimes,” said Gloria Estefan. Tim Robbins, who emceed the event, held at the Universal Amphitheatre in Los Angeles, argued that the famous folk should elect to use that power: “You shouldn’t shut up because you’re a celebrity.”

For nearly three hours, Witness cofounder Peter Gabriel, Michael Stipe, Joan Osborne and Pete Townshend, among others, donated their talent at a benefit concert that raised $350,000 for the group. Afterward, the stars nibbled crab cakes and raspberry tarts at the private postshow reception. When asked how the evening compared to the Academy Awards, Robbins cracked, “Better musicians.”