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Whether you’re a casual coffee drinker or a bona fide espresso connoisseur, you’ve probably heard of Breville’s luxe line of espresso machines. As someone new to at-home espresso-making, I was looking for a solid, entry-level espresso machine that wouldn't break the bank, but would also yield the fancy coffee shop quality espresso I’ve come to expect.

After extensive research, I decided on the Breville Bambino, so naturally, when the brand offered me the opportunity to test one, I accepted. The Bambino is a stylish, chrome single-cup countertop espresso maker. Breville offers two models—the Bambino ($350) and the Bambino Plus ($500).

The primary differences between the two are the Plus’ full automation as compared to the original’s partially automated process, the water tank capacity (1.5 quarts v. 2 quarts), and the price ($300 v. $400). Some owners and reviewers have commented that the drip tray seems more solid on the original model than on the Plus model, which is the one Breville provided for this review, but I certainly had no complaints, and the clean-up from the automatic cleaning process is simple.

While both models have a sleek and design-friendly form factor, the Bambino is slightly smaller and more compact than the Plus model, as would be expected.

Breville BES500BSS Bambino Plus Espresso Machine,

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Environment | Ban on wild cow milking plus spurs and bucking straps could threaten Alameda Countys rodeos

CASTRO VALLEY — Separated from her offspring, a terrified mother cow darts into an arena chased by a rodeo cowboy on horseback – a pursuit that continues until the heifer is lassoed and a second cowboy tackles and slams the animal into the dirt.

As the crowd roars, the cowboy ties down the struggling cow with a rope and forcibly milks her into a bottle. That is what signals victory in wild-cow milking, a popular event at rodeos, which trace back through the history of the American West and the cattle industry that defined early settlements in California.

But that contest could end for good in Alameda County. Next month, the Alameda County Board of Supervisors will consider banning the act of tackling or milking bovine animals — such as steers, calves, bulls, oxen, heifers or cows — for entertainment or sport. The policy has been sought for years by animal-rights activists, who consider the stunt cruel and inhumane.

And the proposed ordinance doesn’t stop at cow milking contests. It also seeks to ban the spurs and straps used by rodeo cowboys to provoke bulls or horses into bucking, along with the stiff ropes they use to yank cattle around or tie them down.

If approved, rodeo enthusiasts say, the far-reaching prohibition could threaten the future of rodeos at the Alameda County fairgrounds, as well as the Rowell Ranch Rodeo in Castro Valley that just celebrated its 100th annual event in May.

“Our lifestyles are important, cultures are important,” said longtime Alameda County rancher Brian Morrison at the supervisors’ meeting Tuesday. “For this ordinance to try to be piggybacked on to hurt a particular culture and institution like the Rowell Ranch Rodeo is shameful.”

It would be rare for a California jurisdiction to impose such a restrictive ban, and even local animal-rights activists are surprised the ordinance extends to devices that are central to rodeos themselves, and not just wild-cow milking. Earlier this year, though, the Los Angeles City Council supported the idea of rodeo rules similar to the ones being considered in Alameda County, though that proposed policy still awaits the council’s final approval.

Alameda County has already imposed some restrictions on rodeos. In 2019, the county supervisors banned mutton-busting events, where children throw themselves onto the backs of sheep and ride them, often leaving the small animals with injuries.

Rodeo critics say many other rodeo sports, especially wild-cow milking, amount to the humiliation, abuse and torture of livestock.

“Rodeos have had their brutal day, and now, like those Confederate statues, belong in the dustbins of history,” said Eric Mills, who has organized against rodeos for decades.

Jackjames Fagundes, 5, of Livermore, holds onto a sheep during the mutton busting held at the “Family Night” event at Robertson Park Stadium in Livermore, Calif., on Thursday, June 9, 2011. Alameda County supervisors banned “mutton busting” in 2019 after supporters of the ban argued it will prevent animal cruelty. (Doug Duran/Bay Area News Group Archives) 

Dr. Rene Gandolfi, a local veterinarian who advocated for the mutton-busting ban, said the mental trauma suffered by animals during rodeos is just as acute as the physical stress.

“Animals experience stress, and the type of stress they experience is adverse stress, just like it is for people,” Gandolfi said. “If we simply say that the only injury to an animal is (one) that we can document with an X-ray, then we’re going to miss a lot of injuries — stress and fear, by themselves, are injuries.”

The new ordinance, introduced Tuesday by Supervisors Dave Brown and Richard Valle, will be considered by the board Sept. 20. Supervisor Nate Miley said the issue was postponed after other supervisors pointed out that the county’s agriculture department had not been given an opportunity to review the language.

Like the mutton-busting debate in 2019, next month’s board hearing will pit animal-rights groups against lifelong Alameda County ranchers who feel their way of life has been deeply misunderstood by the outside world.

“We don’t get into this business because there’s a lot of money in it, and we damn sure don’t get into this business to hurt animals,” Livermore rancher John Bettencourt said at the meeting, having just witnessed the birth of a new calf that morning at the ranch he owns.

“To look over and see that calf and think that we would use equipment to hurt, damage or injure animals, is frankly as big a misunderstanding of our lifestyles as some of the other people have (experienced) in their many diverse lifestyles here in California,” he said.

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