At left is a picture the Times is running on A1 this morning, the day before Thanksgiving. It depicts a Florida mom showing off all the useless crap she was able to scrounge for daughter McKenna (!), like a fake plastic kitchen, thanks to a "noble sacrifice" this year: The mom will bravely go without this season's new designer jeans, according to the accompanying story. Notice that she seems to be nicely up-to-date with last season's pricey denim; that she is standing in a garage larger than many apartments; that it seems to be furnished with an operative extra refrigerator; and that discarded toys (from prior Christmases?) are plainly visible in plastic boxes in the background. This typifies sacrifice in America today? The coming depression is so going to eat the nation alive, and the world will laugh, because we deserve it.

In America, reports the Times, mothers (JUST like this one!) are cutting back on their all-important clothes-shopping trips (down a whopping 18 percent, jeepers!) and using "online tools to organize meetings with other mothers to swap clothing, toys, video games and books. Others are buying DVDs and video games in bulk from warehouse stores like BJ's Wholesale Club, then taking the sets apart to create multiple gifts."

Sounds intense. What do mothers spend their time frantically worrying about elsewhere? Buying that Doodle Pro or Mortal Kombat disk in time for Ramadan or whatever? Not quite:

Her friend rushed over to help her, struggling to wipe the liquid away, when she too was showered with acid. She covered her face, crying out for help as they sprayed her again, trying to aim the acid into her face. The weapon was a water bottle containing battery acid; the result was at least one girl blinded and two others permanently disfigured. Their only crime was attending school. It was not an isolated incident. For women and girls across Afghanistan, conditions are worsening - and those women who dare to publicly oppose the traditional order now live in fear for their lives.

Well, we can't save the whole world, and we'll probably have that whole Afghanistan situation fixed up in another decade or two. What about closer to home? Let's check in with South Carolina:

Capers searches for jobs and money while she endures living apart from her children. Her children call crying and asking to come home, and they sleep on the floor because her grandmother doesn't have enough beds. Last week, her youngest son told her he missed her so much that she managed to scrounge enough bus money so he could spend a night with her at home.

Oh, that sounds bad. Wonder why that wasn't the Times' cover story of sacrifice. Must be one of those clichéd "topics or angles the Times has already addressed" about the South. Even closer to home?Say, in New England?

Sarah Gloudemans rarely has a slow day. In a typical eight-hour shift as a supervisor at Wendy's, she'll take customer orders, wrap sandwiches, make change and generally fix whatever needs fixing. After work, Sarah might do some grocery shopping or laundry before picking up her 2-year-old daughter, Alizah, at day care and driving to their home in downtown Concord. Home, in their case, is a shelter.

And it just gets even more horribly depressing from there. Really not the sort of thing to pump you up to stimulate our wretchedly dysfunctional economy this Black Friday by buying a bunch of useless junk with money you didn't save from sacrifices that don't hurt on credit cards you shouldn't have. So, really: Good call, Times.

(We are doomed, forever.)

(Thanks to tipster Megan for the pointers!)

(Photo: Charity Beck/Times)