TORONTO — Torstar Corp. (TSX:TS.B) reported a smaller second-quarter loss compared with a year ago as it saw improved results from its digital media company VerticalScope.The publisher of the Toronto Star said it lost $7 million or nine cents per share in the three months ending June 30 compared with a loss of $23.9 million or 30 cents per share a year ago.Operating revenue totalled $161.8 million for what was the company’s latest quarter, down from $177.9 million a year earlier.Torstar chief executive John Boynton said VerticalScope posted strong year-over-year growth in revenue, while the company’s Metroland Media Group and Star Media Group benefited from efforts to reduce costs.“We’re facing continued headwinds but we continue to make great progress,” Boynton said during a conference call with financial analysts to discuss the company’s latest results.“We continue to be very encouraged by our VerticalScope side and we continue to be very encouraged by our core digital and news sites and their performances as well.”Torstar holds a 56 per cent stake in VerticalScope, which owns and operates hundreds of online forums and websites including AutoGuide.com, PetGuide.com, Motorcycle.com and ATV.com.In its outlook, the company said cost reduction will remain an important area of focus for the balance of the year. Revenue growth at VerticalScope is also expected to continue in the second half of 2017.Torstar said its most recent quarter included a $6.3-million non-cash amortization and depreciation charge related to its investment in VerticalScope and $6.1 million in restructuring charges.That compared with a $26.6-million non-cash charge related to VerticalScope last year as well as $6.9 million in restructuring charges and a $4.5-million non-cash charge related to the transition of printing of the Toronto Star to Transcontinental.On an adjusted basis, Torstar says it lost three cents per share in the second quarter compared with a loss of 13 cents per share in the same quarter last year.——Torstar holds an investment in The Canadian Press as part of a joint agreement with a subsidiary of the Globe and Mail and the parent company of Montreal’s La Presse. read more

A draft optional protocol to the world’s major anti-torture pact aimed at allowing experts to visit prisons has been endorsed by the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) following two rounds of voting on the matter. On Wednesday afternoon, the Council recommended that the General Assembly adopt the draft optional protocol to the Convention against Torture as a means of establishing a system of regular visits by independent bodies to centres where people are deprived of their liberty, in order to prevent torture and other cruel punishment.Eight countries – Australia, China, Cuba, Egypt, Japan, Libya, Nigeria and the Sudan – voted against the draft text, while ten – Bhutan, Cameroon, Ethiopia, India, Nepal, Pakistan, Qatar, the Russian Federation, the United States and Zimbabwe – abstained on the measure, which passed after 35 countries cast their ballots in favour. The vote was taken after ECOSOC members defeated an amendment proposed by the United States that would have re-opened negotiations on the text of the draft protocol. That proposed amendment was defeated by a vote of 15 in favour to 29 against, with 8 abstentions. Following the decision, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Mary Robinson, issued a statement in Geneva welcoming the Council’s endorsement as “an important step towards the establishment of a new international mechanism to prevent torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.” She voiced hope that the General Assembly would make the concept a reality. In another action on Wednesday, ECOSOC voted 46 in favour to one against (United States), with one abstention (Australia), to adopt a resolution demanding that that Israel comply fully with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. read more