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Rubio on the defensive on gun control

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Republican Sen. Marco Rubio was put on the defensive Wednesday by angry students, teachers, and parents who are demanding stronger gun-control measures after the shooting rampage that claimed 17 lives at a Florida high school.

One of those confronting the Florida senator at a CNN’s “Stand Up” town hall Wednesday night was Fred Guttenberg, whose 14-year-old daughter Jaime was killed on Feb. 14 with 16 others. Rubio was the lone Republican at the nationally broadcast gathering after Florida’s GOP Gov. Rick Scott and President Donald Trump declined invitations to appear at the event in Sunrise, Florida.

Guttenberg told Rubio that his comments about the shooting “and those of your president this week have been pathetically weak.”

People stood up and cheered Guttenberg as he challenged Rubio to tell him the truth, to acknowledge that “guns were the factor in the hunting of our kids.”

Guttenberg added, “And tell me you will work with us to do something about guns.”

Rubio responded that the problems laid bare by the shooting rampage “cannot be solved by gun laws alone,” drawing jeering whistles from the crowd. Rubio responded that he would support laws barring those 18 and under from buying such weapons, support changing the background checks system and getting rid of bump stocks.

He said that if he believed an assault weapons ban “would have prevented this from happening, I would have supported it.” That drew jeers. Visibly angry, Guttenberg responded: “That is a weapon of war.”

Sen. Bill Nelson and Congressman Ted Deutch, both Democrats from Florida, also were present on a dais.

Nelson said he grew up on a ranch and hunted all his life.

“I still hunt with my son but an AK-47 and an AR-15 is not for hunting, it’s for killing,” said Nelson to applause.

Ryan Schachter, whose brother Alex, was fatally gunned down at Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, was among those questioning the lawmakers.

“I’m supposed to go back to school in the upcoming week,” said Schachter. “Me and my friends worry we are going to be murdered in our classrooms.”

Student Cameron Kasky did not mince words telling Rubio, “It’s hard to look at you and not look down the barrel of an AR-15 and not look at Nikolas Cruz” before asking squarely, “Can you tell me right now that you will not accept a single donation from the NRA?” The room erupted in cheers as Rubio replied that people buy into his agenda and that he supports laws to keep guns out of the hands of deranged people.

Rubio said he does not support arming teachers and Nelson agreed saying Trump’s suggestion on arming them was “a terrible idea.”

Shortly before the town hall event opened, the sheriff of the Florida county torn apart by the rampage spoke to the cheering audience, drawing them to their feet as he exhorted them to press on for stricter gun controls.

Sheriff Scott Israel of Broward County declared the U.S. has had enough of deadly shootings and that he was personally saddened to have to go through the crime scene of a “horrific killer” 30 minutes after the attack last week. He said the young people should hold lawmakers accountable for making their schools and other community places safer or they won’t be re-elected.

“Never again!” he declared of the Parkland attack, exhorting the young people to press on: “America’s watching you … there will be change.”

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More than 1 billion doses administered

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A medical worker receives the Covid-19 vaccine at the First Affiliated Hospital of Sun Yat-sen University on April 7, 2021 in Guangzhou, Guangdong Province of China.

Southern Visual | Visual China Group | Getty Images

GUANGZHOU, China — China has administered more than a billion doses of its Covid-19 vaccines, a key milestone in the world’s largest inoculation drive.

As of Saturday, 1,010,489,000 doses had been given to people in China, according to the country’s National Health Commission (NHC). More than 100 million doses had been administered in the six days up to and including Saturday.

It’s unclear how many people have been full inoculated as the government does not release those numbers. But Zhong Nanshan, one of China’s top health experts attached to the NHC, said in March that the country is aiming to have 40% of the population fully vaccinated by the end of June.

After the outbreak of the coronavirus in China last year, authorities moved to quickly bring it under control and largely succeeded in reopening the economy and returning life to normal. One reason behind the slow start to China’s vaccination drive earlier this year was that people did not see the urgency for getting inoculated.

But the campaign has since ramped up. It took China 25 days to climb from 100 million doses to 200 million doses — and just six days from 800 million to 900 million, according to state-run media Xinhua.

Still, new coronavirus outbreaks have happened in the country over the past year. Since late May, the major city of Guangzhou in the south of China has been battling the delta variant, which first emerged in India. It is the first time that variant has seen local transmission in mainland China.

The city reported zero new locally transmitted cases on Sunday following a mass testing drive and local lockdowns.

CNBC two visited vaccination sites in the city earlier this month and saw long lines as people rushed to get vaccinated.

The World Health Organization has approved for emergency use the Chinese-made Sinopharm since May, and Sinovac Covid-19 vaccines since June.

China has been shipping its vaccines to countries around the world including Brazil, the United Arab Emirates and Malaysia. However, U.S. and European health authorities have not authorized any Chinese vaccines for emergency use.

There have been questions over the effectiveness of the China-made vaccines. Efficacy rates for China’s Covid vaccines have been found to be lower than those developed by PfizerBioNTech and Moderna

Chile, another recipient of Chinese vaccines, released the results of a real-world study of over 10 million people in April. It found that the Sinovac vaccine reduces deaths by 80%. However, despite being one of the world’s most highly vaccinated countries, Chile saw cases surge in April.

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Slow income growth is ‘holding back’ the Chinese consumer: Barclays

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Consumer spending in China has largely lagged the country’s overall economic recovery from the pandemic and that sluggishness stems from slower household income growth, according to Jian Chang, chief China economist at Barclays Asia Pacific.

Data released Wednesday showed China’s retail sales once again missed analyst expectations. Official data reported retail sales rose 12.4% in May from a year ago, less than the 13.6% increase forecast by analysts.

Barclays economists said in a Wednesday note they do not see growth in China’s consumption and services returning to pre-Covid levels this year.

“A fundamental issue, I think, that has been holding back the Chinese consumer spending is really the … slower household income growth, and particularly for lower income group,” Chang told CNBC’s “Squawk Box Asia” on Friday.

Read more about China from CNBC Pro

In 2020, China’s cash-strapped poor took on more debt after the pandemic hit job prospects.

Chang pointed to comments from Premier Li Keqiang last year in which he said roughly 600 million people earn just 1,000 renminbi per month (about $155).

She noted that migrant worker salaries have also struggled to recover, posting growth of just 2.5% as compared with 6.5% pre-pandemic.

These are headwinds for Beijing as the Chinese government hopes to promote its “dual circulation” policy, which places greater emphasis on consumption as a key economic driver.

“To improve household consumption share in the GDP you really need to improve household income share in the GDP,” Chang said.

“That means you really need to improve income distribution … which we know that is quite difficult, especially after the global financial crisis and after the pandemic. We really see globally, you know, there is the widening of income gap and the widening of wealth gap,” she said.

Chang said there’s also a gap in where spending occurs. While larger stores and shopping malls have been “quite strong,” Chang said smaller stores are not seeing the same performance.

“If you look at the smaller store sales, which accounts for two-thirds of overall retail sales, that has really been underperforming and is not even half of its growth rate pre-pandemic,” Chang said.

— CNBC’s Evelyn Cheng contributed to this report.

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Hasbro, Mattel monitor China shipping delays as holiday season nears

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A shopper wearing a face mask due to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic browses toys at a Target store in King of Prussia, Pennsylvania, November 20, 2020.

Mark Makela | Reuters

There may be fewer boxes under the tree this holiday season, as toymakers grapple with the possibility of a massive shortage in everything from dolls and action figures to vehicles and puzzles.

The coronavirus pandemic created a bottleneck in the global transportation pipeline, which was later worsened by the blockage of the Suez Canal in March. These shipping delays have hit almost every industry, including electronics, apparel and food.

Exacerbating these troubles is a fresh wave of Covid outbreaks in China. All the while, inventory continues to pile up, leading to manufacturing delays. With shipping containers scarce — or worse, more than double pre-pandemic prices — toymakers are faced with tough decisions ahead of the industry’s most important sales season.

“We’re not seeing any panic yet about the flow of holiday goods,” said Jefferies analyst Stephanie Wissink.

She noted that toy companies are just entering the ramp-up period of production for products that ship in September and October for the holidays.

“If we see persistent constraints into late-summer, then we will start to worry a bit more,” Wissink said.

Currently, the industry is seeing delays of two to three weeks, Wissink said. This is consistent with a report from Davidson analyst Linda Bolton Weiser that was published Friday, although Weiser said delays could be as long as a month.

Weiser told CNBC that the toy industry has faced shipping challenges in the past and persevered. She noted that several years ago, there was a workers strike at the Port of Los Angeles that threatened holiday sales.

“Toy stocks tanked, but [Christmas] went off without a hitch,” she said. “Toy companies were able to get their toys loaded on the tops of freighters and unloaded the fastest.”

Weiser said her most recent chat with Mattel a few days ago indicated the company was “still quite confident about their sales growth for the year.”

Representatives for Hasbro and Mattel did not immediately respond to CNBC’s request for comment.

Toy companies are keeping a careful eye on developments overseas, hoping that pressure on the ports will loosen as vaccines are more widely distributed globally, outbreaks are more isolated and more air traffic routes reopen.

For now, toy companies have not passed on additional shipping costs to the customer, Wissink said. However, there is always a possibility that this could change if the shipping situation does not alleviate.

“We note that holiday purchases are very much oriented toward gifting so price sensitivity is somewhat less,” she said. “That said, consumers will notice if there’s a dramatic increase in prices, but we don’t expect that at this stage.”

Both Mattel and Habro shares were recently trading down more than 1% on Friday. Mattel’s stock has gained nearly 9% since January, putting its market value at $6.64 billion. Hasbro’s stock is down 3% year to date, which puts its market value at $12.5 billion.

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