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Recode Daily: Google spends $1 billion on a 52-acre office park in space-constrained Silicon Valley

Plus: General Motors will shut five factories and cut more than 14,000 jobs; Airbnb finds its new CFO at Amazon; Chinese scientists are creating the first genetically altered babies; and, oh yeah — NASA landed a robot on Mars again.

People on bicycles in front of the Google building in Mountain View, Calif., ride under a colorful balloon archway on a path through a park.
Google employees arriving after bicycling to work at the Googleplex in Mountain View, Calif.
Brooks Kraft LLC / Corbis via Getty Images

Google paid $1 billion for a huge business park near its Mountain View, Calif., HQ — it’s this year’s largest real estate purchase in the Bay Area and the second-largest property purchase in the United States this year, eclipsed only by another Google acquisition, the $2.4 billion the company paid in March for Chelsea Market in Manhattan. Google has been leasing office space at the former site of LinkedIn’s headquarters; the 51.8-acre Shoreline Technology Park is larger than the property that accommodates the company’s Googleplex headquarters a few blocks to the west and also exceeds the size of the parcel across the street where Google is building an iconic “dome” campus that features canopies and tents. [George Avalos / The Mercury News]

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General Motors will stop production at five factories in the U.S. and Canada next year, cutting more than 14,000 blue-collar and salaried jobs in a bid to trim costs. The action follows similar job-cutting moves by Ford Motor in the face of slowing sales and a shift in consumer tastes, driven in part by low gas prices. The cars produced by the affected factories are all sedans — the Cadillac CT6 and XTS; Chevy Impala, Cruze and Volt; and Buick LaCrosse. GM is still hiring people with expertise in software and electric and autonomous vehicles; many of those who will lose jobs are now working on conventional cars with internal combustion engines. [Neal E. Boudette and Ian Austin / The New York Times]

Amazon wants brands to advertise Alexa voice shopping — essentially for free. The e-commerce giant has been reaching out to consumer packaged goods companies this year, asking them to include Alexa branding and an Alexa voice purchasing command in their advertising campaigns. Amazon is asking for millions of dollars worth of advertising impressions on non-Amazon platforms to include an Alexa utterance — essentially for free, according to emails viewed by Recode. In exchange, Amazon will give CPGs data about how well their product is performing within its category on Amazon, as well as some advertising on Amazon’s sites — stuff Amazon doesn’t have to spend out of pocket to offer. [Rani Molla / Recode]

Airbnb hired longtime Amazon exec Dave Stephenson to fill its long-vacant CFO position as the startup prepares for its anticipated IPO. The home-sharing company has been without a chief financial officer since February, when Laurence Tosi departed amid tensions and a shake-up in the senior ranks. Stephenson will take on the role after a 17-year career at Amazon, where he was most recently VP and CFO of its worldwide consumer organization, responsible for all global website sales. Airbnb has a private valuation of about $31 billion; CEO Brian Chesky has promised he will hold an IPO for the 10-year-old company before 2020, when some employee stock grants expire. Meanwhile, another Amazon finance veteran of almost 20 years joined the stock-trading startup Robinhood as its CFO. [Gerrit De Vynck / Bloomberg]

Silicon Valley wages have dropped for all except the highest-paying jobs. In other words, nine out of every 10 Silicon Valley jobs pays less now than when Netflix first launched in 1997, despite one of the nation’s strongest economic booms and a historically low unemployment rate that outpaces the national average. While tech workers have thrived, employees in the middle of the region’s income ladder have been hit hardest as their inflation-adjusted wages declined between 12 and 14 percent over the past 20 years. [Leonardo Castaneda / The Mercury News]

Chinese scientists are creating the first genetically altered babies using the powerful gene-editing tool CRISPR, which modifies human embryos before they are transferred into women’s uteruses. A research team in Shenzhen is attempting to eliminate a gene called CCR5 in the hope of rendering the offspring resistant to HIV, smallpox and cholera. But where some see a new form of medicine that eliminates genetic disease, others see a slippery slope to enhancements, designer babies and a new form of eugenics. The technology is ethically charged because changes to an embryo would be inherited by future generations and could eventually affect the entire gene pool. [Antonio Regalado / MIT Technology Review]

It seems likely that we’ll be hearing the word “monopoly” a lot more in 2019: According to a new report on America’s “concentration crisis,” a variety of industries have come to be dominated by just a handful of actors in recent years. Four companies, for example, control 97 percent of the dry cat-food sector: Nestlé, J.M. Smucker, Supermarket Brand and Mars; Nestlé has a 57 percent hold on the industry, owning brands such as Purina, Fancy Feast, Felix and Friskies. The Supreme Court is considering whether to allow consumers to sue Apple in a reopened lawsuit over App Store monopoly claims. Here’s a look at America’s monopoly problem, in one chart. [Emily Stewart / Vox]

NASA landed a robot on Mars for the eighth time in four decades — as of 2018, the United States is the only nation that has successfully put a rover on the surface of the red planet. After seven months traveling 301,223,981 miles through space at a top speed of 6,200 miles per hour, NASA’s InSight mission landed at Elysium Planitia — called by astronomers “the biggest parking lot on Mars” — and sent the official “beep” to signal that it was alive and well, along with a photo of the Martian surface where it landed. The InSight lander will conduct two years of experiments on Martian atmosphere and terrain; here’s how NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory prepares for a mission to Mars. [Ashley Strickland / CNN]

Top stories from Recode

An Amazon veteran is leaving after 20 years to eventually help take Robinhood public as its CFO. Jason Warnick has presumably had a lot of job offers since joining Amazon in the 20th century. [Theodore Schleifer]

How an $8 billion Silicon Valley startup has shared talent with one of its most prominent investors. There are deep ties between Coinbase and Andreessen Horowitz. [Theodore Schleifer and Rani Molla]

Memo from a “Facebook nation” to Mark Zuckerberg: You moved fast and broke our country. On the latest Recode Decode, Maria Ressler, who co-founded Rappler in the Philippines, warns that her country is a “cautionary tale” for the United States. [Kara Swisher]

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