Google loves the gays, will it start a trend?

Google is set to begin covering a cost that gay and lesbian employees must pay when their partners receive domestic partner health benefits, according to a report in the New York Times. The increased pay is largely to compensate these workers for an extra tax that heterosexual married couples do not pay. The increase will be retroactive to the beginning of the year, the newspaper said.

Google is not the first large company to make up for the extra tax, the Times reported, adding that Google’s move could inspire its Silicon Valley competitors to follow suit, as they compete for the same talent. Right now Google offers benefits to the spouses or partners of both straight and gay employees.

Under federal law, employer-provided health benefits for domestic partners are counted as taxable income, if the partner is not considered a dependent, the newspaper said, noting that the tax owed is based on the value of the partner’s coverage paid by the employer. Citing a study, the Times said employees with domestic partners will pay about $1,069 more a year in taxes than a married employee with the same coverage. Google will essentially cover those costs, the newspaper said, putting same-sex couples on an even footing with heterosexual employees whose spouses and families receive health benefits.

No weed allowed in Africa, just ask Paris

Paris Hilton was arrested in Port Elizabeth after the Netherlands’ defeat of Brazil in the quarter-finals of the tournament. She appeared at a special court on Friday evening.

A friend of Ms Hilton with her at the stadium was found guilty of marijuana possession, her publicist said. Ms Hilton’s friend was sentenced to pay a fine or spend 30 days in jail, it was reported. Ms Hilton appeared in the court wearing a beige dress and a glittery necklace with her hair in two ponytails, a reporter said.

Her publicist told the Reuters news agency that she had been questioned by police but no charges had been brought. “I can confirm that the incident was a complete misunderstanding and it was actually another person in the group who did it. The case has been dropped against Paris and no charges will be made,” Ms Hilton’s spokeswoman said.

After her release she posted a note on the social networking site Twitter saying: “I was assisting the police with the investigation and answering their questions.” In 2007 a US court sentenced her to 45 days in prison for drunk and reckless driving. After serving 25 days in jail she told US talk show host Larry King that she had re-evaluated her life and wanted to do more charity work and less partying.